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Oral Herpes

Commonly, these infections are acquired for the first time in early childhood and may reappear throughout a person’s lifetime. Herpes simplex virus can also cause infections in the eyes, fingers and central nervous system. There is a second type of herpes simplex infection that is sexually transmitted and most often affects the genitals.

What causes oral herpes?

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)

How is oral herpes spread?

By close person-to-person contact, such as through direct contact with saliva or the sores (for example, kissing)
Most experts believe that herpes is not spread from non-human sources such as lipsticks, towels, washcloths, drinking glasses or toys. However, personal items such as washcloths or glasses should not be shared for sanitary reasons

What are the symptoms of oral herpes?

Fluid-filled blisters (cold sores, fever blisters) appear on the lips and face; less often in the mouth (gingivostomatitis). They usually crust and heal within a few days. 

How long is it contagious?

When someone is infected for the first time, he/she may shed the virus for a week to several weeks after the onset of symptoms. Those with recurrent infections shed the largest amount of virus for three to five days after the onset of symptoms.

How can I prevent infection?

1. Frequent, careful hand washing by child care staff, children and household members.
2. Caregivers may wear gloves when contact with lesions is necessary (for example, when applying medication).
3. Do not kiss an infected person when lesions are present.
4. Clean, rinse with clean water, then sanitize mouthed toys at least daily and when soiled.

For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Revised July 2015