However, both types can recur and spread even when no symptoms are present.

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We questioned how much immunity having one type orally or genitally provides against getting the second type.

In addition, we looked at the way our society views oral and genital herpes.

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.

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.

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.

When many people first tell someone they have genital herpes, they start by comparing the infection to oral herpes, or cold sores. In spite of scientific facts, the social stigma and emotional attitudes surrounding genital herpes can make it hard to compare it objectively with an oral infection that most people casually accept.

We asked leading researchers how the two compare in terms of severity, recurrences, and transmission rates.