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The herpes simplex virus is a contagious virus that can be passed from person to person through direct contact. Children will often contract HSV-1 from early contact with an infected adult. They then carry the virus with them for the rest of their lives.
Infection with HSV-1 can happen from general interactions such as:
- Eating from the same utensils
- Sharing lip balm
The virus spreads more quickly when an infected person is experiencing an outbreak. Anywhere from 30 to 95 percent of adults are seropositive for HSV-1, though they may never experience an outbreak. It’s also possible to get genital herpes from HSV-1 if someone who performed oral sex had cold sores during that time.
HSV-2 is contracted through forms of sexual contact with a person who has HSV-2. It is estimated that around 20 percent of sexually active adults are infected with HSV-2. While HSV-2 infections are spread through contact with a herpes sore, it is assumed that most people get HSV-1 from an infected person who is asymptomatic, or does not have sores.