Millions of Americans are infected with one of the two types of herpes virus.
--Herpes type 1 is usually spread by kissing. It causes the common fever blisters and cold sores of the lips and months, but can also affect the genitalia.
-- Herpes type 2 usually causes infections of the genitals. It is typically spread by sexual contact and is thus rare in children.
About 1/3 of those infected with herpes have bouts of red, painful blisters that last five to ten days. Illnesses trauma or emotional stress may trigger these episodes.
Herpes is most contagious during and just before the time when the blisters appear. Many infected people have an itchy or tingly feeling a day or two before the outbreak of blisters. To lower the chance of infecting someone else, avoid sexual contact when the prodrome or blisters are present. Condoms help but don't give complete protection.
Herpes infections are associated with cancer of the cervix. Therefore, if a woman has recurrent herpes infection, she has another reason to obtain a regular Pap smear.
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