Skip header information|
Wadsworth Center Home - Science in the Pursuit of Health|
NY.gov Portal State Agency Listing
Main Body

Disease Carriers

Viruses: Herpes Virus

Herpes viruses can infect neonates, children and adults causing a wide spectrum of diseases. Initial infection with the virus establishes a viral "latency", which allows for subsequent potential of reactivation of the virus in the host.

Herpes simplex type 1 virus is responsible for systemic infections involving the liver and other organs, including the central nervous system, and localized infections may involve the skin, eyes and mouth. In children this is typified by fever, irritability and enanthem of the gingiva and mucous membranes of the mouth. Reactivation of the virus is usually seen as "cold sores". Herpes simplex type 2 virus is associated with genital herpes which is characterized by vesicular lesions in the male or female genital organs.

Other medically important herpes viruses include cytomegalovirus (CMV) and varicella ("Chicken Pox")- zoster ("shingles"). While CMV infections are common and usually asymptomatic and of little concern, infected newborn infants may die or live with permanent neurological damage; even asymptomatic newborns may later suffer hearing defects and learning disabilities. CMV infections are also a major concern in immunocompromised infants and adults either suffering from disease (AIDS and cancer) or recipients of donated organs. In adults, sexual transmission of CMV may occur. Varicella-zoster represent different clinical symptoms of the same virus. Varicella ("Chicken Pox") occurs primarily amongst children. Zoster ("Shingles") is a reactivation of the latent virus occurring primarily in adults and immunocompromised patients.

A number of antiviral drugs are now available to help in the treatment of herpes infections (for example, acyclovir and vidabrine).

Two herpes virus particles are shown; they were prepared for transmission electron microscopy by the negative stain technique
Two herpes virus particles are shown; they were prepared for transmission electron microscopy by the negative stain technique.

Learn more about: chicken pox, cytomegalovirus, herpes 2 and shingles.