Overview of the Nine Types of Herpes Viruses Found in Humans
1. Herpes simplex virus Type 1 (HSV-1)
Fever blisters and cold sores of the face, mouth, and lips are the most common symptoms of HSV-1 outbreaks. Also known as Human Herpes Virus-1 (HHV-1).
Surprisingly, most infections with this virus occur by two years of age via breaks in the skin barrier around the mouth or elsewhere on the body. While HSV-1 is thought of as the cold sore virus and HSV-2 (see below) is thought of as the genital herpes virus, distinctions between them often fail. It is well documented in the medical literature, although not yet widely publicized, that the virus released from a cold sore can easily transfer via oral-genital contact to establish a genital herpes infection in another individual.
Besides causing cold sores and possibly spreading to the genital region, HSV-1 has also been linked with the development of serious neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Bell’s palsy and trigeminal neuralgia. Recent research also shows that co-infection by HSV-1 and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can enhance the activity of both viruses in patients who have AIDS and non-genital herpes lesions.
HSV-1 infects at least 50% of people worldwide.
2. Herpes simplex virus Type 2 (HSV-2)
Also called Human Herpes Virus-2 (HHV-2). This type is the usual cause of genital herpes, which is classified as a sexually transmitted disease. HSV-2 reached epidemic status in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly because of its increased incidence among teenagers. In the world of virus classification, HSV-2 and HSV-1 are nearly indistinguishable except for their different clinical symptoms. However, even these differences are inconsistent, since both types of herpes simplex can cause oral and genital herpes outbreaks.
3. Herpes zoster virus (HZV)
Also called Varicella zoster virus (VZV) and Human Herpes Virus-3 (HHV-3). Chickenpox results from a first time infection by HZV. When this virus recurs later in a person’s life, it causes shingles. As the average age of our population increases, more and more people are suffering recurring bouts of post herpetic neuralgia (nerve pain) as a result of shingles. This herpes virus is considered to be the most infectious of the known herpes viruses. Greater than 90% of the population is infected.
HZV has been linked to the autoimmune disease called lupus. Furthermore, HZV outbreaks, which are now epidemic among people with AIDS, are often the earliest indicator of HIV infection.