Herpes is a common incurable viral infection that affects over 45 million Americans. The herpes family of viruses includes seven different viruses that can infect humans. The official names are known by numerical designation as human herpes virus 1 through 7.

Human Herpes Virus 1 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1)

Human herpes virus 1 (HHV1) is the official name for herpes simplex virus type 1. It can cause cold sores or herpes of the eye, and it commonly causes first episodes of genital herpes.

Human Herpes Virus 2 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2)

Human herpes virus 2 (HHV2) is the official name for herpes simplex virus type 2, the most common cause of genital herpes and, less frequently, herpes of the newborn. It is much less commonly associated with facial and eye infections.

Human Herpes Virus 3 (Herpes Zoster Virus)

Human herpes virus 3 (HHV3) is the official name for herpes zoster virus (also called the varicella zoster virus), the cause of chickenpox. Like its close relative, herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster likes to infect skin cells and nerve cells. The first three human herpes viruses are called neurotropic (also called “alpha”) because of their characteristic love for nerve cells. Chicken pox is primary (first-time) infection with herpes zoster. This virus may also recur along nerve fiber pathways, causing multiple sores where nerve fibers end on skin cells. Because the entire ganglion tends to reactivate with this virus, the physical severity of a recurrence is generally much worse than a recurrence of herpes simplex virus. Recurrent varicella virus infection of the skin is commonly known as either zoster or shingles. Both words translate from different languages into “belt” which describes the pattern in which the lesions appear on the body. Shingles only occurs once (or, rarely, twice). If you are told that your frequently recurrent herpes infection is frequent herpes zoster or shingles infection, a misdiagnosis has probably been make; have this checked out carefully with a reliable virus test.

Human Herpes Virus 4 (Epstein Barr Virus)

Human herpes virus 4 (HHV4) is the official name of Epstein Barr virus, the major cause of infectious monoucleosis, or mono (“kissing disease”).

Human Herpes Virus 5 (Cytomegalovirus)

Human herpes virus 5 (HHV 5) is the official name of cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is also a cause of mono. It can be sexually transmitted, can cause problems to newborns, and can cause hepatitis. Occasionally it is transmitted by blood transfusion.

Human Herpes Virus 6

Human herpes virus 6 (HHV6) is a recently observed agent found in the blood cells of a few patients with variety of diseases. It is known to be the cause of roseola in small children and can also cause a variety of other illnesses associated with fever in that age group, even where the typical roseola rash is missing. This infection apparently accounts for many of the cases of convulsions associated with fever in infancy.

Human Herpes Virus 7

Human herpes virus 7 (HHV7) is even more recently observed. Like all human herpes viruses, HHV6 and HHV7 are ubiquitous. In other words, they are so common that most of humankind has been infected at some point – usually early in life. It is not at all clear what clinical effects this virus causes.

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