Herpes is a common and usually mild skin condition caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Most cases of oral herpes are caused by HSV-1 while the majority of genital herpes cases are caused by HSV-2; however, type-1 or type-2 can occur in either the genital or oral area.

Even though herpes is common—more than 50 percent of American adults have oral herpes, and about one in six people ages 14-49 in the United States have genital herpes—many people don’t understand the basics about herpes infections. In the videos below, two noted herpes experts, H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, and Kees Rietmeijer, MD, PhD, help you understand essential facts about herpes. They explain the differences between the two virus types, who should get tested for herpes and the types of testing available, managing herpes during pregnancy, and strategies to prevent herpes infection.

Going Further

Herpes testing: Learn about the different types of tests available and download the herpes blood test guide.

Herpes and pregnancy: Most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies, but if a woman with genital herpes has virus present in the birth canal during delivery, herpes simplex virus (HSV) can be spread to an infant, causing neonatal herpes, a serious and sometimes fatal condition. Learn more about how to manage herpes during pregnancy.

Relationships: The best way for couples to deal with herpes is to talk about it openly and make decisions together. Learn more about ways to start the conversation about genital herpes with a partner.

Understanding_Herpes_Fact_SheetDownload the companion fact sheet to “Understanding Genital Herpes” with Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield, covering testing, prevention strategies, and treatment.