Breaking Down Herpes: Herpesviruses – Medical Microbiology

 Breaking down herpes

 Overview and etiology of herpes

Herpes is a viral infection that is caused by a common and contagious virus, Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2. The spread of this infection begins when an infected person starts to shed the virus. HSV-1 majorly causes oral herpes even though it can as well cause genital herpes, HSV-2 or herpes type 2 is the main cause of genital herpes. Herpes is commonly transmitted through intimate contacts that involve kissing and unprotected sexual intercourse since the virus is shed in saliva and genital fluids. Herpes can also be spread through direct contact with skin sores and sharing of items such as eating utensils or toothbrushes. Transmission can as well occur from mother to baby during childbirth, therefore, pregnant women with the infection must consult with a doctor on precautionary measures. Research indicates that infection by HSV-2 increases the chances of acquisition of HIV while HSV-1 causes rare conditions such as encephalitis, keratitis, and ocular sequelae.

Prevalence of HSV

Infection by herpes simplex virus is widespread among the human population worldwide. A global estimate reveals that a total of 491.5 million people between the ages of 15 to 49 years globally are living with HSV-2. Women are the most affected as compared to men. The infections were also established to be highest within the WHO African Region, followed by the Pacific West and South East Asia. The number of infections has also been shown to increase with increasing age since the disease majorly affects the elderly population.

Triggers of herpes infection pathology.

Statistics indicate that about 67 percent of the global population below the age of 50 has HSV-1 while there are 47% HSV-1 and 11.9% HSV-2 in the United States. Despite most people being infected by these viruses, the virus is normally dormant and does not exhibit pathological symptoms. The pathological attack on the human body can be triggered or influenced by factors that include the general state of illness, physical or emotional stress, fatigue, immunosuppression caused by autoimmune conditions, AIDS, use of steroids, or chemotherapy, and menstruation.

Symptoms and signs of herpes

Most people infected with herpes do not have symptoms either because the infection is dormant or mild. However, those who have symptoms develop the symptoms about 2 to 12 days after viral exposure. The initial presentations of herpes include flu-like symptoms that involve swollen lymph nodes in the groin, muscle aches, headache, and fever. Genital herpes symptoms include pain, itching, or tenderness in the genital area, tiny white blisters or small red bumps, ulcers from the rupture of blisters, and scabs that form as ulcers heal.

Herpes ulcers or sores can also occur depending on the site of infection i.e. the sores can be developed on the buttocks and thighs, mouth, anus, urethra, vaginal area, cervix, penis, or scrotum. The symptom of herpes do tend to recur and the level of recurrence differ from person to person. During periods of recurrence, just before the development of sores, symptoms such as pain in the lower back, legs, and buttocks can be experienced as well as itching, burning, or tingling of the previous or first site of infection.

Complications of Herpes

The complications associated with herpes may include bladder problems, infection of the newborn, and increased risk of other sexually transmitted infections, meningitis, and other rectal inflammation.

Treatment of herpes

There is no known cure for herpes, however, there are medications that have been made available to minimize the pain associated with the outbreak and can reduce the healing time. These drugs include Valtrex, Zovirax, and Famvir used to treat symptoms of herpes. The use of warm baths has also proven vital in the relief of pain caused by genital sores.

Share this Post