Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes Simplex Virus

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About The Herpes Simplex Virus


This page provides general information on the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus is a DNA virus which infects humans exclusively. There are two different strains of the herpes simplex virus: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). It is possible to become infected with both types of herpes simplex viruses. For a long time, HSV-1 was mainly associated with oral herpes and HSV-2 was mainly associated with genital herpes. This is no longer true. Both strains of the herpes virus can infect a person either orally or genitally.

The herpes simplex virus has been in existence for at least a few thousand years and is incredibly common. Only the cold and flu viruses are more widespread. The herpes virus is a parasite and cannot survive on its own. Herpes simplex viruses use the metabolic machinery of host cells in order to replicate.

The herpes simplex virus has a very simple structure. There is a bit of double-stranded linear DNA which sits inside of a spherical protein shell. This shell is itself surrounded by a fatty lipid coating. And that is pretty much it. The herpes virus does not have the ability to move, grow, or reproduce on its own. It is a parasite. It replicates by injecting its DNA into the nucleus of other cells. These cells are then forced to produce new herpes viruses. Because of this structure the herpes simplex virus is incredibly fragile. If the virus comes into contact with air or any soaps or detergents it dies instantly.


There Are Actually 8 Different Types Of Human Herpes Virus

Although this page will focus on the two types of human herpes virus which can cause genital herpes, there are actually eight different types of human herpes viruses.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1)

This herpes virus is commonly associated with cold sores or fever blisters. But this virus has been responsible for more and more cases of genital herpes in the last few years. Most people acquire this virus early in childhood. The virus is incredibly common and over 80% of the population will become carriers at some point in their lives. This number may seem too high but what most people don’t know is that the majority of those infected with the herpes simplex virus will never know because they show either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. In very rare cases HSV-1 can also cause infections in the eyes, brain, skin, and gums.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2)

This herpes virus is most commonly associated with genital herpes. In actuality, it can cause all of the same infections as HSV-1. For most age groups, HSV-2 is the primary cause of genital herpes. Around 20% of the adult population carries this virus. Again, this number seems high to most people but over 80% of individuals infected with HSV-2 will never know it. This is especially worrisome for pregnant women and their partners. If the herpes infection is spread to the baby during pregnancy the effects on the newborn are very serious and potentially life-threatening. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are spread through direct physical contact.

Varicella-zoster virus – Human Herpes Virus Type 3 (HHV-3)

This is the herpes virus responsible for chicken pox and herpes zoster (shingles). There is a vaccine available for this particular herpes virus.

Epstein-Barr virus – Human Herpes Virus Type 4 (HHV-4)

This is the herpes virus which causes infectious mononucleosis (also known as “mono” or the kissing disease). This virus is spread through saliva.

Cytomegalovirus – Human Herpes Virus Type 5 (HHV-5)

This herpes virus is incredibly common. Around 60% of the population has been exposed. Nearly all of those infected will never know it. In people with healthy immune systems there are rarely any effects. Only in people with compromised immune systems can this virus lead to damaging effects on various organs.

Human Herpes Virus 6 And 7 (HHV-6 and HHV-7)

These herpes viruses both cause roseola infantum. This disease results in a mild rash and fever lasting only a few days and with no permanent effects.

Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV-8)

This virus has no noticeable effect on people with healthy immune systems. In individuals with compromised immune systems this virus can cause Kaposi’s sarcoma which is a type of cancer.

It is surprising for many to find out how common these viruses really are. Most people living past 60 will have acquired the antibodies to almost all of these herpes viruses. This means that at some point in there lives they were infected. Because these viruses rarely cause any physical symptoms most of the infected will never know.


The Lifecycle Of The Herpes Simplex Virus

The herpes simplex virus enters your body through an opening of some kind. This can be a cut or a break in the skin. The herpes virus can also enter through any of the soft pink linings around the mouth, genitals, or anus.

Once inside your body the herpes virus makes its way into the nucleus of some of your body’s cells. This is where the virus will take over the cell in order to make more copies of itself.

At this point most people will never know they are infected because they will show no symptoms of any kind.

For some individuals, the process of the herpes virus replicating will lead to the formation of blisters, sores, and ulcers on the skin surface. These lesions are actually filled with millions of active herpes viruses.

Eventually these lesions will go away and the affected skin will heal. Most of the time this happens without any scarring.

After this replication process, the herpes virus will travel along nerves and hide in nerve cells located at the base of the spine.

The herpes simplex virus will hide here in an inactive state. Occasionally, the herpes virus will make its way back to the skin surface where it will again begin the replication process. This is known as a recurrent outbreak and the number and severity of these outbreaks varies greatly among individuals.

It is also useful to remember that the herpes simplex virus can make its way to the skin surface and reproduce without causing an outbreak. Sometimes the herpes virus will just use the host cells to replicate without actually killing the host cells. When this happens there will be no physical symptoms such as blisters and sores. There will still be potentially contagious herpes viruses present on the skin surface. But the number of herpes viruses present will be much smaller than during an actual outbreak. This process is known as viral shedding.


Comparison Of Herpes Simplex 1 And Herpes Simplex 2

Herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 look almost identical under the microscope. These two herpes viruses share over 50% of the same genetic material.

The main difference between these two viruses is that they seem to prefer to infect humans in specific areas. Herpes simplex 1 prefers to infect the mouth area. Herpes simplex 2 prefers to infect the genital area. They also differ in the area of the body where they prefer to lay dormant. Herpes simplex 1 prefers to lay dormant in a group of nerve cells located near the ears. Herpes simplex 2 prefers to lay dormant in a group of nerve cells near the base of the spinal column.

The word “prefer” is used very loosely here because both types can infect either region. The region that each virus infects is important because this determines how severe the herpes infection will be in the future. What this means is that if each of these viruses infects a non-preferred region of the body then there will be fewer outbreaks and less viral shedding over the course of the infection. So if you acquire HSV-1 genitally or HSV-2 orally then the resulting infection will be much weaker.

Another difference between herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 is in the method of acquisition. Normally, herpes simplex 1 is acquired during childhood through a kiss. Herpes simplex 2 is normally acquired later in life through direct physical contact of a sexual nature.

Finally, there is also a difference in the public perception or stigma associated with each of these viruses. Because herpes simplex 1 is associated with cold sores it is seen as a minor annoyance and nothing to be ashamed of. Because herpes simplex 2 is associated with genital herpes there is a huge social stigma attached to it. It is really surprising though because both of these viruses can infect either region of the body.


Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 – Transmission And Statistics

Genital herpes is most commonly associated with herpes simplex virus type 2. In order for this virus to spread a couple of conditions must be met.

1. There must be some kind of body fluid present. The herpes simplex virus is very fragile. If the virus dries out it will die almost instantly. This body fluid can be in the form of saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, or even discharge from a herpes blister.

2. There must be a way for the herpes virus to enter the human body. Skin is actually a very strong barrier against the herpes virus. In order for the herpes virus to enter there must be a cut or break in the skin of some kind. The virus can also enter through the soft pink linings of the mouth, genitals, and anus.

Without both of these conditions occurring the chances of infection are very small.

And finally, here are some useful statistics regarding herpes simplex virus type 2:


Herpes Dating Ebook

There is much more to know about this virus. Be sure and visit the rest of this website as well as the Herpes Dating eBook. The eBook contains information on all issues involving genital herpes including:


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Herpes Dating eBookTelling Someone You Have Herpes
Transmission Of HerpesBest Herpes Dating SitesHerpes Forum
How Do I Know If I Have HerpesGenital Herpes FAQ

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