Question for Betty.
 
I have a cold sore and I accidentally touched it. I forgot to wash my hands. I went to the bathroom and I wiped after peeing but the tissue paper wasn't thick enough and I ended up touching my skin.  Does that mean I have genital herpes now?
 
Betty's Answer.
 
Your question is about transmission of the virus that causes cold sores, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), from your mouth/lip area to your genital/rectal area.  HSV-1 is a very common virus; by age forty, 90% of people worldwide test positive for HSV-1.  Transmission can occur from one part of your body to another and from person to person, via infected oral secretions or fluid from the sore.  Transmission from one body part to another is more likely in a sensitive area, such as mucous membranes or your eyes. This can be avoided by not touching the sores or fluid from the sore.  If touched, immediate and thorough hand washing makes the transfer less likely.  You may or may not develop a sore in this new area depending on the extent of exposure.  If you do develop a lesion, this can be treated with antiviral medications, to decrease the symptoms and shorten the amount of time symptoms last.  These medicines work best if they are started as soon as possible after symptoms begin.  Antiviral medication will ease the symptom, but it will not cure cold sores.  The sores can recur.  
To further answer your question, if you do get a sore or lesion in this new genital area, it is still the original virus, probably HSV-1, the same virus as in the oral area.  The virus HSV-2 is more frequently found in the genital area, however can be transmitted during oral sex to the oral region.  The HSV-1 virus is less likely to have recurrent outbreaks in the genital region than the HSV-2 virus.

For further information, contact your health care provider, or you are an eligible UAA student, call to make an appointment at 907-786-4040.