Herpes simplex infections appear as red, grouped, watery blisters which crust up and are often painful or itchy. An outbreak usually persists for 1-2 weeks and always recurs at the same site. During the initial episode patients frequently feel ill and may have a fever.
Initial episodes usually take three weeks to heal. Subsequent attacks are preceded by stinging or soreness at the site prior to the eruption. With the passage of time, the duration between outbreaks lengthens and the infection usually becomes milder.
Oral Herpes (HSV-I) is contagious up to a day before it appears and until the lesion has visibly resolved. Genital Herpes (HSV-II) is contagious even if there are no signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is possible to transmit the virus to a sexual partner without any sign of an outbreak. It is estimated that 80% of Americans have been exposed to and carry the herpes simplex virus.