Are Genital Herpes and Cold Sores the Same Virus!?!?

Dear Couch,

My friend and I are in an argument about herpes. (Sounds silly, I know). She claims that genital herpes and cold sores are the same virus. I say she's wrong, and that there are two types of herpes virus. One being the genital kind, and the other taking the harmless form of cold sores. Which one of us is right? And another question, I've always heard that you can get genital herpes from cold sores, like if you've had oral sex with someone with a cold sore. Is this true?


Dear Too Much Time On Your Hands,

You're both right, sort of.. There are at least 8 identified Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV), although our two favorites remain HSV-1 (which primarily causes cold sores on the mouth) and HSV-2 (usually found below the belt). Just to make things interesting, really good, prevalent oral sex (such as that detailed above) has led to HSV-2 being spread to the mouth, and HSV-1 being found on the genitals. There is no way to tell them apart. Fun, huh? The point is, it's always possible to catch an STD from someone so we, of course, recommend 'safe sex'. Are we going to tell you to saran wrap that muff for oral sex? No. We're going to point you towards information and let you make your own decisions.

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