Is it possible to get genital HSV 1 herpes from oral sex?

Yes! Oral herpes (also known as fever blisters or cold sores, HSV-1) have been thought to only show up on the lips, but studies have shown that passing oral herpes from mouth to genitals is easier than had been assumed. Women are more likely than men to get genital herpes from oral sex because of the simple makeup of a woman’s anatomy (more mucous membranes).

“Up to 50% of new genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. The recurrence rate of genital HSV-1 is low.” — New York Times Health

Men have less physical permeability (less genital mucous membranes), so are at less risk of getting herpes from oral sex. Since 80% of Americans aged 14-49 have oral herpes (fever blisters), extra precaution should be taken (condom for men, dental dam for women). The risk is clearly higher if there is a visible outbreak with sores present. Herpes needs an “in road” to make it from one person’s body to another. But herpes sores don’t always have to be present in order for transmission to occur because of asymptomatic viral shedding.

According The New York Times Health section, “Up to 50 percent of new genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. The recurrence rate of genital HSV-1 is low, with on average one outbreak in the first year after acquiring infection and less than one outbreak a year thereafter.”

What if I have genital HSV-1? Can I pass that on to my partner orally?
The answer is yes. But think about it: 80% of Americans already have oral HSV-1, so have your partner get a blood test to see if they carry antibodies for HSV-1. If they already have it, then no worries. And if they don’t have it, they are still running the same risk of getting oral HSV-1 by kissing any of the 80% of people out there who have cold sores. It’s the same strain of the virus, but in different locations, so whether someone gets HSV-1 from going down on someone or kissing someone, it’s the same thing.

What about if I have genital HSV-2? Can I pass that to my partner’s mouth (oral HSV-2)?
Read this article for more on HSV-2 and oral sex »

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