Herpes simplex virus infection is increasingly common in the United States. Oral herpes causes cold sores around the mouth or face. Genital herpes affects the genitals, buttocks or anal area. Genital herpes is a transmitted disease (STD). Herpes infections are marked by painful, watery blisters in the skin or mucous membranes or on the genitals. The blisters resemble those seen in chickenpox an infection caused by a third member of the alpha-Herpesviridae subfamily, Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), also known as Human Herpes Virus 3. Lesions heal with a crudescent scab, the hallmark of herpetic disease. Herpes is contagious if the carrier is producing and releasing (“shedding”) virus. It usually affects health care providers who are exposed to saliva during procedures. Sometimes, young children also can get the disease. There are two different strains of herpes simplex viruses. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is usually associated with infections of the lips, mouth, and face. It is the most common herpes simplex virus and most people develop it in childhood. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is transmitted. HSV can also cause more severe generalised infections amongst those with weakened immunity.
Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 and varicellazoster virus are unique members of the Herpesviridae family. HSV-1 infections are spread via respiratory droplets or direct exposure to infected saliva. HSV-2 usually is transmitted via genital contact. Approximately 90% of HIV-positive individuals are seropositive for HSV-1, and about 77% of HIV-positive individuals are seropositive for HSV-2. It is transmitted by contact with infected saliva. By adulthood, up to 90% of people will have antibodies to HSV-1. Herpes simplex encephalitis is a very serious disorder, thought to be caused by the retrograde transmission of the virus from a peripheral site to the central nervous system along a nerve axon. It is known that the virus lies dormant in the ganglion of the trigeminal or fifth cranial nerve. In rare cases the herpes simplex viruses can also cause more serious infections. These include HSV meningitis, HSV encephalitis (HSV infection of the brain), neonatal herpes (HSV infection in the newborn acquired from the mother around the time of birth).
HSV may persist in a quiescent but persistent form known as latent infection, notably in neural ganglia. Men are 20% more likely to develop recurrences of HSV-2 than are women. HSV-2 affects five to 20 per cent of the population (including many individuals who are also infected with HSV-1). It is more often associated with genital herpes, although either virus can cause a similar disease at both anatomical sites. Valaciclovir and famciclovir are prodrugs of aciclovir and penciclovir respectively, with improved oral bioavailability (55% vs 20% and 75% vs 5% respectively). Aciclovir is the recommended antiviral for suppressive therapy to prevent transmission of herpes simplex to the neonate. The use of valaciclovir and famciclovir, while potentially improving treatment compliance and efficacy, are still undergoing safety evaluation in this context. Cimetidine, a common component of heartburn medication, has been shown to lessen the severity of herpes zoster outbreaks in several different instances, and offered some relief from herpes simplex.
Herpes Simplex Virus Treatment Tips
1. There are several prescription antiviral medications for controlling herpes outbreaks, including aciclovir (Zovirax) and valaciclovir.
2. Docosanol (Abreva) is another treatment that may be effective.
3. Tromantadine is another antiviral drug effective against herpes.
4. Lactoferrin, a component of whey protein, has been shown to have a synergistic effect with aciclovir against HSV in vitro.
5. Roscovitine is an inhibitor of cellular cyclin-dependent kinase and seems to prevent transcription of viral genomes.
6. Aloe vera may benefit those with genital herpes.
7. Valaciclovir and famciclovir are prodrugs of aciclovir and penciclovir respectively.
8. Zilactin is an early relief cold sore/fever blister gel that works by applying the gel.