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Herpes simplex: Overview


Herpes simplex is a common viral infection. If you’ve ever had a cold sore or fever blister, you picked up the herpes simplex virus. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Other names for cold sores caused by HSV-1 are:

  • Oral herpes

  • Mouth herpes

  • Herpes simplex labialis

After clearing, herpes simplex sores can return. When the sores return, the outbreak tends to be milder than the first outbreak.

A closely related herpes simplex virus, HSV-2, causes most cases of genital herpes. But either HSV-1 or HSV-2 can cause a herpes sore on the face or genitals.


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Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

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