What is sometimes referred to as Type 2 Herpes is actually the virus known as Herpes Simplex 2, Herpes Simplex Virus 2, or HSV-2 when abbreviated. An estimated 25% of adults from varying backgrounds are thought to be infected with Type 2 Herpes, which is often the cause of genital herpes. Almost entirely medically identical to Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which is more often associated with oral herpes (usually manifesting as cold sores), Type 2 Herpes is different primarily for where it resides in the body.
Type 1 Herpes (HSV-1), generally establishes latency (a site of preference) in a place of the body called the trigeminal ganglion, a bank of nerve cells near the ears. As a result, when recurring outbreaks occur, they manifest themselves on the facial region, especially near the mouth. Type 2 Herpes is more commonly referred to as genital herpes because when HSV-2 establishes latency its site of preference is at the lower base of the spine in the bank of nerves located there, called the sacral ganglion, and as a result the outbreaks are generally in the genital region. Carriers of either virus may never experience an outbreak, but can still transmit the virus through close contact.
Further research has shown that HSV-2 can cause oral herpes, though, and that HSV-1 can result in genital herpes. It is important to be careful when engaging in sexual activity as someone even in latent (non-outbreak) stages can transmit either virus. The best way to prevent the spread of Type 2 Herpes is to practice safer sex not only during intercourse, but during oral-genital contact.