Rotimi Adesanya

In Nigeria, patients who developed fever blisters on their lips or by the side of the mouth usually assume that they have malaria fever. Most of them even inform the doctor that they have started taking anti-malaria drugs. But research shows that fever blisters, medically referred to as Herpes Labialis and generally known as lip blister or cold sore, have little or no association with malaria.

In a particular malaria study done by a group of clinicians, the only group of people with blisters, or sores, are old people.  This also shows that blisters are associated with low immunity, which is linked to herpes infection.

When next you have a fever blister, think of an outbreak of herpes infection and not malaria. The Herpes Simplex Virus, also known as HSV, is an infection that causes herpes infection. Herpes can appear in various parts of the body, especially on the mouth, genitals and the skin.

There are two types of the herpes simplex virus. The first one is HSV-1, which is also known as oral herpes. This type can cause cold sores and fever blisters to break out around the mouth and on the face.

The second type or HSV-2 is generally responsible for outbreaks of genital herpes infection.


The herpes simplex virus is so contagious that it can be passed from person to person through direct contact. Children will often contract HSV-1 through early contact with an infected adult. They then carry the virus with them for the rest of their lives.

HSV-1: Infection with HSV-1 can occur through kissing and sharing the same utensils or lip balm with other people. The virus spreads quickly when an infected person is experiencing an outbreak. It is also possible to contract genital herpes from HSV-1 if someone, who had oral sex with another person, had cold sores during that time.

HSV-2: HSV-2 is contracted through sexual intercourse with somebody infected with HSV-2.

Risk factors

Anyone can be infected with HSV, regardless of age. In cases of sexually transmitted HSV, people are more at risk when they indulge in unprotected sex. People who have multiple sex partners, sex at a younger age, another sexually transmitted infection and a weak immune system are also vulnerable to HSV-2 infection. If a pregnant woman is having an outbreak of genital herpes at the time of childbirth, it can expose the baby to both types of HSV and put him at risk of developing serious health complications.


Some may not have symptoms (asymptomatic). Some of the symptoms associated with this virus include blistering sores (in the mouth or on the genitals), pain during urination (genital herpes), itching. One may also experience symptoms that are similar to the flu. These symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, tiredness, lack of appetite.

HSV can also spread to the eyes, causing a condition called herpes keratitis. This can cause symptoms, such as eye pain, discharge, and a gritty feeling in the eye.


This type of virus is generally diagnosed through physical examination. Your doctor may check your body for sores and ask you some questions. He may also request you to take an HSV test, which will be helpful when there are no sores on your body.


There is no cure for this virus at present. Treatment focuses on getting rid of sores and checking outbreaks of the disease. It is possible that your sores will disappear without treatment. However, your doctor may determine you need one or more antiviral drugs, which can help to reduce the risk of spreading the virus from infected persons to others.

Antiviral medication also helps to lower the intensity and frequency of such outbreaks. It may come in oral form (pills) or applied as a cream. For severe outbreaks, medication may also be administered by injection. Certain stimuli can trigger an outbreak. They include stress, menstrual periods, fever or illness.


If you are experiencing an outbreak of HSV-1, these are some preventative steps to take:

Avoid direct physical contact with other people.

Don’t share any items that can pass the virus around, such as cups, towels, silverware, clothing, makeup, or lip balm.

Don’t participate in oral sex, kissing, or any other type of sexual activity during an outbreak.

 Wash your hands thoroughly.

Individuals with HSV-2 should avoid any type of sexual activity with other people during an outbreak. If the individual is not experiencing symptoms but has been diagnosed with the virus, a condom should be used during intercourse. But even when using a condom, the virus can still be passed to a partner from uncovered skin.

Women who are pregnant and infected may have to take medicine to prevent the virus from infecting their unborn babies.

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