Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is one of a family of herpes viruses, which includes HSV 1 and HSV 2, varicella zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and human herpes virus 6.
HSV 1 and HSV 2 cause patterns of disease which differ clinically and epidemiologically, but share some characteristics.
HSV 1, HSV 2 and herpes zoster all establish permanent latency in sensory nerve following the primary infection.
HSV 1 is more common and is usually acquired during childhood presenting most commonly as acute gingivostomatitis, but can occur anywhere on the skin. In the eye, keratoconjunctivitis is a feared infection because it can cause scarring of the cornea and loss of vision.
HSV 2 is largely associated with genital infection and is most common in young, sexually active adults. The risk of infection increases with numbers of sexual partners. Transmission is by vaginal, oral or anal sex. Condoms reduce the risk of transmission. The infection appears at the site of virus entry, on the glans penis or penile shaft in men, or on the vulva or vaginal mucosa in women. Perianal and rectal lesions can develop as a result of anal intercourse. Primary herpes simplex infections have an incubation period of 3-6 days but this may be longer.
During the first attack, there may be a tingling and burning over the affected area.
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