Herpes Simplex Virus – Fact not Fiction
Herpes simplex is part of a group of other herpes viruses called Herpesviridae, that include human herpes virus 8 (the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma), herpes zoster (the virus responsible for shingles and chicken pox) and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
There are two strains of the virus: type 1 (HSV1), usually associated with the mouth, lip, and face infections and is responsible for cold sores and fever blisters; and type 2 (HSV 2), usually associated with infections of the sex organs (it is the main cause of the condition known as genital herpes) and both of these strains of virus can cause extremely painful infections in humans.
Both type 1 and type 2 herpes viruses reside in a latent state in the nerves which supply sensation to the skin. The virus 'buds off' from the nerve ending and infects the surrounding skin cells, producing a painful cluster of pale blisters that are crammed with herpes simplex virus and are highly infectious.
Recurrences of Type 1 infection can occur on virtually any part of the body surface but are most frequent on the face, particularly on or around the lips. Infection of the mouth is very common and though the appearance may be a source of concern, it presents no serious risks to your general health.
Herpes simplex is actually the most common virus found in humans, causing infections of the skin and mucous membranes but is also an uncommon cause of more serious infections in other parts of the body. Virus infections from herpes may cause severe extensive disease in immune-suppressed individuals (HIV or cancer patients, for example).
Like all members of the herpes virus family, the herpes simplex virus stays with us for life. The virus affects only humans and there is no cure. It is estimated that over half a million new cases of the virus occur every year and in the United States alone, one out of five of the total adolescent and adult population are infected.
Newborns can catch herpes simplex from their mother during birth. If a newborn is infected with the virus, the following symptoms of infection may emerge during the first month after birth: irritability, breathing problems, fever, convulsions, jaundice (yellowish skin), sores on the skin, bruising or low platelet counts (platelets are the part of blood that makes it clot). In the most extreme cases, babies infected with herpes simplex may develop severe eye problems, a small brain size, mental retardation, seizures or even die.
The virus rarely spreads to the baby through the placenta of the mother but to decrease the risk of infecting newborns, a caesarean delivery (C-section) is recommended for pregnant women who have an active herpes simplex infection at the time of delivery.
One fascinating fact about herpes is that at least one third of children are infected by the virus by the end of childhood.