A common sexually transmitted disease, or STD, genital herpes affects approximately one out of every six people in the United States. It is a viral infection caused by type 1 or 2 of the herpes simplex virus, the former of which is also a common cause of cold sores or fever blisters. These temporary growths typically develop from contact with infected saliva and are not related to sexual activity, though oral intercourse may cause genital herpes in a person whose partner has the oral form of the disease. Genital herpes may also develop from genital-to-genital contact when one partner has a genital herpes infection.
The infection stems from contact with infected skin or bodily fluids, though the infected partner does not need to have a visible sore or even a known diagnosis to spread it. It is not possible to contract genital herpes from linens, toilet seats, or other surrounding surfaces. It is also not likely that a sore covered with a condom can lead to transmission of the disease, though the infected person may have an uncovered sore that can cause cross-infection despite use of a condom.