What is the Difference Between HSV 1 and HSV 2

The main difference between HSV 1 and HSV 2 is that HSV 1 is the most common type of HSV infection in adults and mostly spreads through oral contact, whereas HSV 2 spreads through sexual contact.  

HSV 1 and HSV 2 are two types of Herpes simplex virus (HSV), causing infections with painful blisters or ulcers. HSV infections are treatable but not curable.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is HSV 1
     – Definition, Features, Importance
2. What is HSV2
     – Definition, Features, Importance
3.  Similarities Between HSV 1 and HSV 2
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between HSV 1 and HSV 2
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

HSV 1, HSV 2, Genital Herpes, Oral Herpes

Difference Between HSV1 and HSV2 - Comparison Summary

What is HSV 1

HSV 1 is one of the two types of herpes virus. It is also called the oral herpes. HSV 1 causes fever blisters and cold sores around the mouth and lips. Apart from that, it can cause genital herpes. Most genital herpes is caused by HSV 2, the second type of herpes virus. The transmission of oral secretions or sores on the skin, kissing, sharing toothbrushes, etc., can spread HSV 1 infection. It can spread without sores as well. Pregnant women with genital herpes can spread the disease to the child during birth. Moreover, both types of herpes viruses can go through a dormant period before showing the symptoms.

Compare HSV 1 and HSV 2 - What's the difference?

Figure 1: HSV

Furthermore, other conditions that cause herpes include general illnesses, fatigue, emotional and physical stress, immunosuppression due to AIDs, chemotherapy, drugs containing steroids, trauma in the affected area, and menstruation. Blister or multiple blisters around the affected area is the major symptom of HSV 1. These blisters break, forming tender sores. Lab tests such as PCR can diagnose the HSV 1 infection.

What is HSV 2

HSV 2 is the other type of herpes virus, also called genital herpes. Infected people have sores around the genitals and rectum. It also causes sores below the waist. Sexual contact is the reason behind the spreading of HSV 2 infection. The main symptom of HSV 2 infection is the sores in the genital areas. There is no cure for the herpes virus but treatments relief the symptoms. Medication can reduce the pain and shorten the healing time. It also reduces the total number of outbreaks. Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex are drugs for HSV 2 infection.

HSV 1 vs HSV 2

Figure 2: HSV 2

The symptoms of the HSV 2 are extremely painful. Some people experience burning and pain around the genital area and difficulty in urinating. But some people experience mild to no symptoms of genital herpes. There is no cure for the HSV 2 disease; the virus lies inactive inside the nerve cells and becomes active again in another outbreak. During the first infection, people may experience fever, body aches, headache, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes near infection.

Similarities Between HSV 1 and HSV 2

  • HSV 1 and 2 are two types of HSV viruses that cause genital herpes.
  • Most infections do not show symptoms or have mild symptoms.
  • Infections cause painful blisters and ulcers.
  • HSV infections can be identified by lab tests like PCR.

Difference Between HSV 1 and HSV 2


HSV 1 refers to a virus that causes sores around the mouth and lips, while HSV 2 refers to a virus that causes sores around the genitals or rectum.


Moreover, HSV 1 spreads through oral contact, while HSV 2 spreads through sexual contact.


HSV 1 causes oral herpes and cold sores, while HSV 2 causes genital herpes.


In brief, HSV 1 and HSV 2 are two types of herpes viruses that cause blisters around the affected area. HSV 1 spreads through oral contact, and it causes oral herpes. In comparison, HSV 2 causes genital herpes, and it spreads through sexual contact. Therefore, the main difference between HSV 1 and HSV 2 is the method of spreading and the type of symptoms.

  1. Herpes simplex virus. World Health Organization. 
Image Courtesy:
  1. Herpes simplex virus TEM B82-0474 lores” By CDC/Dr. Erskine Palmer – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. HSV 2” By CNX Victoramuse – Own Work (CC-BY SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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