It is possible to spread herpes through saliva, and the chances of doing so depend greatly on the situation. Despite the fact that most people associate herpes with a genital infection, oral herpes is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, there are many ways to transmit herpes via saliva other than sexual activity. A diagnosis of oral herpes should not necessarily lead one the conclusion that the infected person was behaving recklessly.
In order to transmit herpes through saliva, the virus must be present in the saliva of a carrier, and come into contact with the broken skin or mucous membranes of another person. The oral herpes virus, known as HSV-1, can spread in a number of ways, including simply via the droplets of moisture that leave as a person exhales. Those droplets of saliva can land on a cut or mucous membrane of another person, and start an infection. The two people do not even need to have any direct physical contact.
While the above example is an extreme case, it can happen. More likely, herpes through saliva happens as a result of kissing. Those who kiss others during a herpes outbreak especially risk spreading the infection. It is even possible to spread the virus when an outbreak is not taking place, but it may be harder to do at that point.
Genital herpes is a significantly different, but related, virus, and referred to as HSV-2. Despite the difference, it is still possible to spread oral herpes through saliva from the mouth to another individual's genitals. Once rare, doctors are now reporting it is increasingly common to see HSV-1 infecting genital regions.
Preventing the spread of herpes involves taking some precautions. Those who know they are infected with the disease should not simply assume there are times when they are safe from spreading it. Abstaining from activities such as kissing and oral sex are the only sure ways to avoid spreading the disease. Still, taking some precautions, such as not engaging in those activities during outbreaks, can help reduce, but not eliminate, the chance of spreading the disease.
Those who feel they may have contracted herpes, either through saliva or some other means, should contact a medical professional. Only a medical professional can make the proper diagnosis and suggest a course of treatment. While herpes is not usually life threatening, it can greatly affect a person's quality of life, and therefore taking control of the situation early can be a big help.