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Oral Herpes Transmission

Herpes simplex-1 virus is the causal organism for oral herpes. This virus can get transmitted through direct contact with the infected area. Here's some information on oral herpes transmission along with precautionary measures that should be followed to prevent the virus from getting transmitted.
Herpes simplex virus-1 and herpes simplex-2 are the two strains of herpes virus. While oral herpes is caused due to herpes simplex-1, herpes simplex -2 is responsible for causing genital herpes. One suffers from oral herpes when this virus enters your body through tiny breaks in the skin or mucous membrane tissues in the mouth. Here's some information on oral herpes transmission along with ways to prevent this infection.

Transmission of Oral Herpes

The risk of getting infected with herpes simplex-1 virus is the highest when one indulges in mouth-to-mouth kissing with a person infected with herpes. Any direct contact with the person infected with herpes can cause oral herpes. Contact through skin, mucous membranes and saliva of an infected person puts one at an increased risk of getting infected. When a person with oral herpes performs oral sex, there is a great possibility of the partner getting genital herpes. Performing oral sex with a person suffering from genital herpes can also cause oral herpes. One must therefore refrain from indulging in such sexual acts during an outbreak.

Though the infection is spread mainly due to coming in contact during an active outbreak, sometimes one could get infected due to contact with asymptomatic carriers of this virus also. These are people who have the virus in their body but don't exhibit any symptoms of the infection. The skin of a person who has recently recovered from an infection might still have the virus and physical contact with such a person might also lead to an infection. Herpes virus can also be transmitted to infants during pregnancy. Once this virus enters the body, it travels up to the nerve roots near the spinal cord and stays at this place in a dormant state.

Since the virus stays in the nerve roots for life, it can get reactivated and lead to recurrent outbreaks. Generally people with a weak immune system experience frequent herpes outbreaks. Since infants have a weak immune system, refrain from kissing them while you are suffering from an outbreak. Upper lips, gums, tongue, inside of the cheek and roof of the mouth are the areas that get affected during oral herpes.

Symptoms of Oral Herpes

When a person gets infected with herpes simplex-1 virus, the symptoms may appear anytime between 2-12 days. One may develop fluid-filled blisters or cold sores near the mouth, lips, gums, inside of the cheeks. These could appear singly or in the form of clusters. Such blisters might even develop on the roof of the mouth or the front portion of tongue and throat. The fluid might ooze out later. Oral herpes is also characterized by redness, inflammation, itching and a burning sensation on the affected area. One could also experience pain, muscle fatigue, weakness and fever during an outbreak. Generally the oral herpes outbreak lasts for 3-12 days.

Prevention and Treatment of Oral Herpes

Since the transmission of oral herpes is caused due to touching the infected lesions or cold sores, one must avoid physical contact with an infected person. Avoid mouth-to-mouth kissing or touching the herpes blisters. Maintain proper hygiene. Those suffering from an outbreak must use an antibacterial hand wash after touching the affected area. Refrain from touching the affected area as much as possible. If you or your partner are having an outbreak, it would be a good idea to refrain from mouth-to-mouth kissing or other sexual acts.

So how often does herpes breakout? Well, the body's immune system develops antibodies during the primary outbreak. Whenever the herpes simplex virus gets reactivated, antibodies that are released during future outbreaks help in fighting off the infection. Generally the future outbreaks are milder and last for a shorter period of time. As far as the treatment of oral herpes is concerned, the doctors generally prescribe anti-viral medications such as acyclovir and valacyclovir. Application of topical creams also helps in the treatment of cold sores. It is believed that taking L-lysine supplements may also help to some extent.

Though some people might have 3-4 outbreaks in a year, some might not experience a recurrence for years. Poor lifestyle, illnesses, surgical trauma and stress can weaken one's immune system. Since a weak immune system can lead to frequent outbreaks, one must try to strengthen one's immune system by following a healthy diet and improving your lifestyle. If you experience any symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.

Since herpes is a contagious disease, one must take preventive measures to eliminate the chances of oral herpes transmission. Following the aforementioned precautionary measures will surely prevent you from getting infected with herpes.
By Smita Pandit
Published: 10/27/2010
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