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HSV1 vs HSV2: Differences and Similarities

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Herpes Simplex Virus is a common human affliction that has two different forms: HSV1 and HSV2.HSV1 is the virus that causes lesions around the mouth area, also known as canker sores, or cold sores.HSV2 is the virus that is responsible for ulcers that occur most commonly below the waist, also referred to as genital herpes.

These two viruses are similar in some ways, yet also have some critical differences.

In this article, we will outline the differences and similarities between the two conditions.


What areas they affect:

HSV1 is known for affecting the area on and around the lips, and occasionally on other parts of the face.

Rarely, if someone with a cold sore on their face comes in contact with the genital region of another, there is a risk of transferring HSV1 to the genital region.HSV2 is the virus most known for affecting the region below the belt nearly exclusively.

How they are spread:

HSV1 can be transferred through kissing, sharing utensils, or coming in contact with saliva or lesion secretions from someone with a cold sore.HSV2 is most commonly transferred through sexual contact.

How common they are:

According to the World Health Organization, HSV1 may be present in as many as 50% of the U.S. population under 50, while HSV2 may affect around 14.4% of the U.S. population.

How to prevent spreading the virus:

HSV1 is generally transferred by mouth-to-mouth contact, or contact with the sores, saliva, or surfaces in and around the mouth of someone with active sores.

With HSV1, avoid kissing, sharing utensils, avoid touching the sore, and wash your hands thoroughly to reduce the risk of spreading HSV1 to another person.HSV2 is normally transferred through sexual contact with another person.

Avoid sexual activity until the sores are fully healed, and wear a condom to lessen the risk of transfer to another person.

Be sure to keep the lesion area clean and wash your hands thoroughly if you come into contact with the area.


How contagious they are:

Both HSV1 and HSV2 are the most contagious and have the most risk or transfer during an active outbreak.

However, a small risk of transferring the virus will still remain even when there are no active sores.

How long the virus lasts:

Both HSV1 and HSV2 are lifelong conditions and they do not have a cure.

Speak with your partner if you know that you have either of these conditions as there may be a risk of transfer and you will have the virus for the rest of your life.


The most common prescription treatments for both conditions are the same antiviral medications:

  • Valacyclovir
  • Acyclovir
  • Famciclovir

While these medications do not get rid of either HSV1 or HSV2, they may help reduce the severity, length, or prevent the recurrence of flare-ups.

Valacyclovir from for HSV1

At Strut, we offer Online Consultations for free with our U.S. licensed doctors to see if the antiviral medication Valacyclovir may be a good option for your HSV1 cold sores.

Valacyclovir may reduce the amount of time that your pesky cold sores stick around, and may help reduce the rate of recurrence.

If you are a good candidate for treatment, your prescription medication can be shipped directly to your front door.

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