Cold sores are caused by certain strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 usually causes cold sores. HSV-2 is usually responsible for genital herpes. However, either type can cause sores in the facial area or on the genitals. Most people who are infected with the virus that causes cold sores never develop signs and symptoms. The herpes simplex virus usually enters the body through a break in the skin around or inside the mouth. It is usually spread when a person touches a cold sore or touches infected fluid-such as from sharing eating utensils or razors, kissing an infected person, or touching that person's saliva. A parent who has a cold sore often spreads the infection to his or her child in this way. Cold sores can also be spread to other areas of the body. In Canada this study estimated the regional and age- and gender-specific seroprevalences of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2 in Ontario, Canada. Stored serum specimens from subjects aged 15 to 44 years, including men (n = 979), women not under prenatal care (n = 638), and women under prenatal care (n = 701) submitted for routine viral serology were randomly selected according to regional population size from public health laboratories. HSV-1 and HSV-2 testing was done with the MRL enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (Focus Technologies), and HSV-2 was also tested by the Gull/Meridian EIA. Specimens discordant for HSV-2 antibodies between the two EIAs were resolved by a recombinant immunoblot assay (Focus Technologies). The overall age- and gender-standardized seroprevalences of HSV-1 and HSV-2 were 51.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 50.1 to 52.1) and 9.1% (95% CI, 8.6 to 9.7), respectively. The seroprevalence of HSV-1 antibodies increased from 26.9 to 54.7% in men between 15 to 16 and 40 to 44 years of age, from 32.0 to 88.7% in women not under prenatal care, and from 55.2 to 69.2% in women under prenatal care. The seroprevalence of HSV-2 increased from 3.8 to 21.3% in men between 15 to 16 and 40 to 44 years of age, from 0 to 18.9% in women not under prenatal care, and from 3.4 to 23.1% in women under prenatal care. HSV-2 results were discordant for 3.3% (76 of 2,318) of specimens. Both types of HSV antibodies appeared to be acquired earlier among women under prenatal care than among men and women not under prenatal care. Antibodies were more prevalent among people in northern Ontario (72.9% of subjects [range, 68.4 to 77.4%] for HSV-1 and 13.7% of subjects [95% CI, 10.2 to 17.2%] for HSV-2) than elsewhere. Cold sores usually clear up without treatment within 7 to 10 days.
Antiviral tablets or cream can be used to ease your symptoms and speed up the healing time. Antiviral creams such as aciclovir or penciclovir (also known as Fenistil) may speed up the healing time of a recurrent cold sore infection if used correctly.Cold sore creams are widely available over the counter from pharmacies without a prescription. They are only effective if you apply them as soon as the first signs of a cold sore appear, when the herpes simplex virus is spreading and replicating. Using an antiviral cream after this initial period is unlikely to have much effect. Cold sore patches that contain a special gel called hydrocolloid are also available. They are an effective treatment for skin wounds and are placed over the cold sore to hide the sore area while it heals.
Non-antiviral treatments:-Several non-antiviral creams are also available over the counter without a prescription from pharmacies. These creams are not specifically designed to treat cold sores and will not help them heal faster, but they may help ease any pain or irritation. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable treatment for you. Various vaccine candidates have been developed, the first ones in the 1920s, but none has been successful to date. Due to the genetic similarity of both herpes simplex virus types (HSV-1 and HSV-2), the development of a prophylactic-therapeutic vaccine which is proven effective against one type of the virus would provide fundamentals for vaccine-development for the other virus type. As of 2015, several vaccine candidates are in different stages of clinical trials as they are being tested for safety and efficacy, including at least three vaccine candidates in the US and one in Australia. An ideal herpes vaccine should induce immune responses adequate to prevent infection. Short of this ideal, a candidate vaccine might be considered successful if it (a) mitigates primary clinical episodes, (b) prevents colonization of the ganglia, (c) helps reduce the frequency or severity of recurrences, and (d) reduces viral shedding in actively infected or asymptomatic individuals.