Herpes Simplex Virus – How Does it Affect You?
According to the CDC, 20 per cent of Americans above the age of 12 years have the herpes simplex virus.
According to estimates, this works out to roughly 45 million Americans.
The herpes simplex virus causes a common infection called herpes. It can remain inactive or in suspended state throughout life but when active it can manifest with painful herpes symptoms.
How the Herpes Simplex Virus Travels
The herpes simplex virus is extremely contagious. It mainly spread when an infected lesion comes in contact with another host. It can also spread through contact with body fluids. On the other hand, there are times when the herpes simplex virus can also spread via skin to skin direct contact during the viral shedding period.
The virus is most contagious during this period when a single virus cell moves from one part of the body to another or sheds into the environment where it can infect another person.
Oral herpes is the most common form of herpes. Infection is mostly transferred via the saliva when one shares drinks or kisses. Caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the infection presents differently in children and adults.
Among children, the virus causes acute herpetic gingivostomatitis. Initial symptoms include fever, red, swollen gums, tiny blisters on lips, mouth and tongue and swollen lymph nodes. The tiny fluid filled blisters can burst open and cause larger issues later.
Among adults, the virus causes acute herpetic pharyngotonsillitis. This is a condition of the pharynx and tonsils which is where the herpes virus attacks in adults in most cases. The mouth and lips are relatively free from any apparent infection. Besides blister rupturing, symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sore throat.
The condition often lasts anywhere between 3 and 5 days. The symptoms disappear or subside in about two weeks after that but viral shedding from saliva may persist for three weeks or more. Outbreaks or recurrence of symptoms of HSV-1 infection is common and known as herpes labialis.
Genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2. It can be caused by the HSV-1 virus also if a herpes lesion comes in contact with the genital skin of an unaffected person. Symptoms of genital herpes appear after an incubation period of 3-7 days. Symptoms include itching, pain and burning sensation. Pain while urinating and discharge from the urethra or vagina is also common. Other general symptoms include fever, muscular pain and fatigue.
As in the case of oral herpes, small blisters may appear in the genitalia. Therefore, blisters on the labia and cervix in women and scrotum and urethra in men are also common.
In both oral and genital herpes, the first presentation of symptoms is followed by a period of remission as the virus becomes latent, only to become active again. However, over a period of time, the frequency and severity of outbreaks can be reduced significantly with proper medication.
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Herpes infections can be bothersome and rather distressing at times. Safe and effective treatments are available that can make living with Herpes a lot easier.
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