Herpes is a virus that can cause sores on the skin. There are two types of the virus. Depending on how you come in contact with the virus, either type can cause outbreaks near the mouth or on the sex organs.
Herpes reproduces only when it is inside the body. It does so by tricking a healthy cell into producing copies of the herpes virus. Each copy can infect nearby cells. But, before too long, the body's defenses rally to stop the attack. The immune system forces the virus to retreat. For some people, an acute outbreak never happens again. For others, menstruation, illness, poor diet, fatigue, or stress makes outbreaks more likely.
The herpes virus enters the body through a small break in the skin. The virus can also enter by direct contact with mucous membranes, such as those of the lips, vagina, or anus.
Inside the body, the herpes virus binds to a special site on a skin cell. Then part of the virus moves into the cell.
Inside the skin cell, the virus releases a set of instructions. These commands cause the cell to begin making copies of the herpes virus.
Herpes blisters appear on the skin. Herpes blisters may also appear on mucous membranes lining the mouth, vagina, or anus.
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