Genital herpes; Fever blisters; Cold sores; HSV-1; HSV-2
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) commonly causes infections of the skin and mucous membranes. Sometimes it can cause more serious infections in other parts of the body. HSV is one of the most difficult viruses to control and has plagued mankind for thousands of years.
Herpes simplex is part of a group of other herpes viruses that include human herpes virus 8 (the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma) and herpes zoster (the virus responsible for shingles and chicken pox). There are more than 80 types of herpes viruses. They differ in many ways, but the viruses share certain characteristics, notably the word "herpes," which is derived from a Greek word meaning "to creep." This refers to the unique characteristic pattern of all herpes viruses to "creep along" local nerve pathways to the nerve clusters at the end, where they remain in an inactive state for some indeterminate time.
There are two forms of the herpes simplex virus:
These viruses are distinguished by different proteins on their surfaces. They can occur separately, or they can both infect the same individual. Until recently, the general rule was to assume that HSV-1 infections occur in the oral cavity (mouth) and are not sexually transmitted, while HSV-2 attacks the genital area and is sexually transmitted. It is now widely accepted, however, that either type can be found in either area and at other sites. In fact, HSV-1 is now responsible for up to half of all new cases of genital herpes in developed countries.
For infection to occur, the following conditions must apply:
When herpes simplex virus enters the body, the infection process typically takes place as follows:
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