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Can I avoid herpes infection by using oral sex?

Many believe they are safe from genital herpes if they abstain from intercourse.  However, contact with the herpes virus during oral sex can infect a person with genital herpes, oral herpes, or both.

Herpes is caused by two different viruses, which are active on a person’s skin. Not everyone with oral herpes or genital herpes knows when he or she is contagious. The herpes virus may be spread even when there are no visible lesions, through a process known as shedding.

As a result, a person with oral herpes, or cold sores as they are commonly called, who performs oral sex on a partner may transmit the virus to him or her.  Likewise, a person with genital herpes may transmit the virus to a partner who performs oral sex on him or her.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.