However, in some cases type 1 can recur spontaneously in the eye, causing ocular herpes, a potentially serious infection which can lead to blindness.In very rare cases HSV- 1 can spread spontaneously to the brain, causing herpes encephalitis, a dangerous infection that can lead to death.It's also the reason that both HSV-1 and 2 can pose serious challenges for infants, who have a limited immune response; and for people with compromised immune systems, including people with cancer, AIDS, severe burns, and people taking immunosuppressant medications.The second factor affecting outbreaks is how long a person has had the infection.Like HSV-1, type 2 is usually mild-so mild that two- thirds of infected people don't even know they have it.Type 2 rarely causes complications or spreads to other parts of the body. In this feature, we look at the latest scientific facts about the two types of herpes simplex virus, as well as social attitudes toward oral and genital herpes.
Under a microscope, HSV- 1 and 2 are virtually identical, sharing approximately 50% of their DNA.Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of this, which contributes both to the spread of type 1 and to the misperception that the two types are fundamentally different."People don't understand that you can have type 1 genitally or orally, that the two types are essentially the same virus,' says Marshall Clover, manager of the National Herpes Hotline." One type is associated with stigma, the other is "'just a cold sore"- our society has a euphemism for it so we don't even have to acknowledge that it's herpes.'' The common myth is that HSV-1 causes a mild infection that is occasionally bothersome, but never dangerous. HSV-1 is usually mild, especially when it infects the lips, face, or genitals.But both types are quite common, and under most circumstances neither is a major health threat.That's one reason medical professionals tend to dismiss HSV -2 despite the emotional trauma a diagnosis can cause for a patient.