Many people get infected unnoticed. However, the initial infection can also lead to the outbreak of a clinical picture, the so-called “mouth rot” (“gingivostomatitis herpetica”). As is known, herpes is contagious on the lip and so is oral thrush.
So contagious is mouth rot
The virus that causes oral thrush is contagious. It is transmitted rapidly and most of the population carries it within them. However, this does not mean that someone who gets infected by someone who has oral thrush will also get oral thrush.
The initial infection with the so-called herpes virus usually goes unnoticed. Most people know the crusty change on the lip as one of the symptoms of the herpes virus. This often occurs in stressful situations, or in other situations where the immune system is weakened.
As with lip herpes, mouth rot signals the body’s response to the virus. As one develops defence cells against the virus after the illness, one usually does not become ill a second time. So people who have already suffered from mouth rot cannot become infected again.
If this does happen, further examinations are necessary and possibly more serious deficiencies of the immune system of the newly ill person must be investigated. Why not everyone who is infected with the virus suffers from mouth rot is unknown. The viruses are contagious for up to 12 days.
Path of infection
Herpes viruses are transmitted through close physical contact. This is also called contact infection. This also includes the well-known droplet infection, i.e. the virus is also transmitted via saliva.
The carriers excrete the viruses at irregular intervals with the saliva and people suffering from oral thrush release the virus into the environment throughout the course of the disease. That is why one should pay particular attention to hygiene at the time of illness. This means that one can get infected especially when kissing and when sharing cutlery, glass or bottle.
Infection is so often spread by parents at a very young age, when they give the child a kiss or use their own handkerchief to blow the child’s nose, for example. Especially small children tend to put many toys in their mouths and the pacifier is also a source of infection when a second person puts it in their mouth. This should be avoided at all times to keep the child’s exposure to germs as low as possible.
The incubation period of oral thrush, i.e. the time between first contact with the virus and the outbreak of the disease, can vary between two and nine days. However, four to six days are most commonly given. The incubation period also depends on the state of health of the infected person and how quickly his or her immune system can fight the virus.