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Cold Sores

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Close Encounters of the Microbial Kind


Oral herpes is a disease caused mainly by herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and primarily affects the face, mouth and throat. It causes pain, burning, tingling or itching at the infection site which is normally followed by clusters of blisters. After the first infection, the disease can recur as episodes of cold sores on the lips. It’s usually mild and self-limiting, lasting 2–3 weeks, but can cause severe disease in those who are at risk such as the immunocompromised. It’s a very common disease – 90% of the world’s population are infected by the age of 40 years, and 40% of these will experience a recurrent infection. Infection is lifelong. Treatment includes medication for the relief of pain and fever – topical medications like anaesthetics and anti-virals may also be useful. Adequate fluid intake is important to avoid dehydration. Oral anti-viral agents are available for treating severe or frequently recurring infections.

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Wilson, M., Wilson, P.J.K. (2021). Cold Sores. In: Close Encounters of the Microbial Kind. Springer, Cham.

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