Herpes is the blanket term to refer to the viral infection that can infect the mouth and genitals. It is really 2 different strains of the herpes simplex virus. In the simplest terms, HSV-1 refers to oral herpes. And HSV-2 is genital herpes. There are many differences between HSV-1 and HSV-2, however, besides the terminology. There are also many similarities which can be misleading.
HSV-1 and HSV-2 Similarities and Differences
As mentioned before, both refer to the herpes simplex virus. Both are virtually asymptomatic. That is, sometimes they don’t show symptoms of infection.
Close contact with a carrier can transmit either infection, especially during outbreaks. Both are also incurable.
The differences between HSV-1 and HSV-2 can get confusing, however. HSV-1 spreads through skin to skin contact. Kissing can spread oral herpes to another person. HSV-2 spreads through sexual activity or skin to skin contact. Vaginal or anal sex can transmit HSV-2 to another person. Both viruses can result in genital herpes, however. HSV-1 becomes genital herpes if someone with an HSV-1 outbreak performs oral sex on another person.
HSV-1 outbreaks also reoccur less frequently than HSV-2. If you’ve ever had a cold sore, you know that they don’t come back regularly if at all. That cold sore is a symptom of an HSV-1 infection. HSV-2 outbreaks, however, do occur more frequently. The good news is that they can lessen in severity from the original outbreak.
The main differences between HSV-1 and HSV-2 are that the first is oral herpes and the last is genital herpes. Both are incurable and highly contagious during outbreaks. Social stigma and psychological distress associated with either strain can be the same, regardless of which one a person has.