Primary herpes refers to the first episode of symptoms after infection, often presenting with painful sores on the lips, gums, and mouth.
In some people, the first attack (primary herpes) of herpes is associated with fever, swollen glands, and bleeding gums, together with painful sore(s) around the mouth (gingivostomatitis). These signs and symptoms may last several days. Difficulty in eating and drinking may lead to dehydration. The sores heal completely in two to six weeks, usually without scarring. Virus can be recovered from the saliva for days after the lesions heal. Primary herpes is usually contracted during childhood.
Not everyone has a severe primary attack when they are first infected with herpes. In some people, the virus infects the body without causing any symptoms. The process generates an antibody response, causing the immune system to produce antibodies against the herpes virus. This antibody response helps reduce recurrences and keep them mild. Antibodies also make it hard for the virus to get a foothold anywhere else on the body. (If this weren't so, cold sores would spread to other parts of the body from routine actions, such as face washing, which doesn't happen.)
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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