I was wasting time on TikTok, and I saw this video making awareness and trying to end stigma against herpes, and I got the idea from it that oral herpes was of the exact same type as the genital herpes (ie the STD one). This made me very spooked but interested, so as usual I hit Wikipedia, and I find that there are two Simplex viruses. Quoting straight from Wikipedia:

HSV-1 more commonly causes infections around the mouth while HSV-2 more commonly causes genital infections

So what does this imply? Are they just different variants that to the layperson (me) are the same thing? Or does it just mean that although HSV-1 is more common on the mouth, it can infect elbows or genitalia, but it's not sexually transmitted?

Also if I have an oral infection, can I give someone a genital infection? If a kid has herpes in their mouth, is it feasible to say they have an STD? I previously had herpes on my lips (or maybe they were just acne or very small cuts on them). Does that mean I may still have oral herpes?

If it transmits by fluids, does exchanging saliva count? What about sweat? Does the contact have to be where there is mucus or other fluids, or does it only require contact with the skin?

What conditions exist that laypersons call herpes, other than the simplex virus one?


1 Answer 1


Type 1 and type 2 are different viruses and once you have a herpes infection, you will always have the infection as it is lifelong (WHO, 2020).

Infection with herpes simplex virus, commonly known as herpes, can be due to either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is mainly transmitted by oral-to-oral contact to cause infection in or around the mouth (oral herpes). However, HSV-1 can also be transmitted through oral-genital contact to cause infection in or around the genital area ( genital herpes). HSV-2 is almost exclusively transmitted through genital-to-genital contact during sex, causing infection in the genital or anal area (genital herpes).

So HSV-1 can affect any part of the body — including the genitals (Lafferty, et al. 2000) see also What is the likelihood of contracting genital HSV1 through oral sex? — as close bodily contact of any kind can transmit HSV-1, and HSV-2 is predominantly sexually transmitted and predominantly affects the genitals and/or anus, but it can affect the mouth.

An infection of HSV-2 increases the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV infection (WHO, 2020).

Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection only if sexual activity was involved.


Lafferty, W. E., Downey, L., Celum, C., & Wald, A. (2000). Herpes simplex virus type 1 as a cause of genital herpes: impact on surveillance and prevention. The Journal of infectious diseases, 181(4), 1454-1457. https://doi.org/10.1086/315395

WHO, (2020). Herpes simplex virus. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus

  • There is now progressed research how to fool herpes virus to activate as if the body was in an immune suppressed state only to force the viruses to surrender their refuge in the nervous cells only for a drug to deactivate, destroy or otherwise prevent its individual reproduction. The goal is to eliminate each virus particle in an infected body, and I believe they probably passed mice research or similar. Couldn’t find the paper or research. But, there might be a path forward and hope for those who have to live with the dormant infection. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 20:21
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    "...HSV-2...[only] ... affects the genitals and/or anus. Are you certain of this? There's a difference between predominantly and only. Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 21:59
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    @anongoodnurse Fixed.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 4:12

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