Health and Medicine

Diseases, Disorders, and Other Health Problems

How many types of herpes virus are there?

There are five human herpes viruses:

Herpes simplex type 1—causes recurrent cold sores and infections of the lips, mouth, and face. The virus is contagious and spreads by direct contact with the lesions or fluid from the lesions. Cold sores are usually recurrent at the same sites and occur where there is an elevated temperature at the affected site, such as with a fever or prolonged sun exposure. Occasionally this virus may occur on the fingers with a rash of blisters. If the virus gets into the eye, it could cause conjunctivitis, or even a corneal ulcer. On rare occasions, it can spread to the brain to cause encephalitis.

Herpes simplex type 2—causes genital herpes and infections acquired by babies at birth. The virus is contagious and can be transmitted by sexual intercourse. The virus produces small blisters in the genital area that burst to leave small painful ulcers, which heal within ten days to three weeks. Headache, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and painful urination are the other symptoms.

Varicella-zoster (Herpes zoster)—causes chicken pox and shingles. Shingles can be caused by the dormant virus in certain sensory nerves that re-emerge with the decline of the immune system (because of age, certain diseases, and the use of immunosuppressants), excessive stress, or use of corticosteroid drugs. The painful rash of small blisters dry and crust over, eventually leaving small pitted scars. The rash tends to occur over the rib area or a strip on one side of the neck or lower body. Sometimes it involves the lower half of the face and can affect the eyes. Pain that can be severe and long-lasting affects about half of the sufferers and is caused by nerve damage.

Epstein-Barr—causes infectious mononucleosis (acute infection having high fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands, especially in the neck, which occurs mainly during adolescence) and is associated with Burkitt’s lymphoma (malignant tumors of the jaw or abdomen that occur mainly in African children and in tropical areas).

Cytomegalovirus—usually results in no symptoms but enlarges the cells it infects; it can cause birth defects when a pregnant mother infects her unborn child.


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