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Question:

Herpes transmission from oral sex

Dear Ask The Doctor:
A woman recently performed oral sex on me. My questions are: 1. if I had cold sores as a kid, did I develop antibodies to HSV-1? 2. If so, do these antibodies prevent me from contracting genital herpes from receiving oral sex from a woman who may have a cold sore?


Answer:

The Herpes Simplex Virus is a virus that causes Oral(HSV-1) and Genital Herpes(HSV-2).  Studies show that under a microscope, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very similar with the main difference being their preferred site of infection.  Despite the name, individual with oral herpes can infect the genitals of their partners and individual with genital herpes can infect the oral mucosa of their partners by direct oral-genital contact.
When the disease is active, it presents as vesicular blisters lasting from 2 to 21 days.  When the disease is in remission, there are no visible signs.  It remains dormant and may reactivate at anytime later in life.There is no cure for oral or genital herpes, only treatment for the blisters they cause.  While antibodies do form in a person with herpes infection, it is unclear if these antibodies provide protection for a new infection at a distant site.  What is clear is that HSV-1 antibodies do not protect against the HSV-2 virus and HSV-2 antibodies do not protect against the HSV-1 virus.
Herpes simplex is transmitted by direct contact with an active lesion or by exchange of bodily fluids. Transmission may also occur through skin-to-skin contact during periods of asymptomatic shedding (when blisters are not present).


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