There are two forms of herpes caused by the Herpes simplex virus, ordinary cold sores are caused by HSV1 and genital herpes sores caused by HVS1 and HVS2. It is passed on by skin contact, principally oral sex and sexual intercourse. Once contracted it lasts for life. For some it can be almost without symptoms and for others it causes great discomfort. Most who have the disease are not aware they are infected. People with herpes have a higher risk of being infected with AIDS. Pregnant mothers can pass the disease on to their child, in rare cases with serious complications.
More than 1 in 5 adults in the USA have genital herpes; however, only about 1 in 10 of these persons is aware of his or her infection. This means that up to 50 million people are carriers of herpes.