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Herpes Simplex Virus I & II are common viruses that can be sexually transmitted, but are not always. Type I, also known as cold sores, generally affects the mouth area so it’s not considered an STI unless it’s transmitted through unprotected oral sex. Type II is usually called genital herpes because it mostly affects the genital area and is transmitted through unprotected genital contact. One in six people in the USA has genital herpes.


Herpes is transmitted through skin to skin contact, including kissing. Using a condom or dental dam during sexual contact can reduce the chance of transmission.

Symptoms and complications

Most of the time, people with herpes never experience symptoms or rarely do. Herpes symptoms are lesions (cold sores): small blisters that break and leave sores that take a few days to heal. Outbreaks can occur frequently, especially when a person is first infected.

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If you are experiencing symptoms or think you’ve been exposed to herpes, it’s very important to get tested. Teen Clinic tests for herpes by taking a swab from the lesion or blister.


Because herpes is a virus, it is treatable but not curable. Antiviral medications are available to help reduce the chance of outbreaks. Outbreaks tend to occur when a person’s immune system is weak. It’s very important to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong to fight off symptoms in case you become infected.

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