Herpes Infections - Description

Herpes Infections Description 2756
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Cold sores are a very common health problem. More than 60 percent of Americans have had a cold sore. Nearly 25 percent of these individuals have repeated outbreaks of cold sores. Cold sores are also known as fever blisters or oral herpes. They are usually caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1).

A period of time during which a virus is not active.
A period of time during which certain symptoms signal the beginning of a disease.
An open wound in the skin or mucous membrane that is usually sore and painful.

Most people are first infected with HSV1 before the age of ten. Once the virus enters the body, it remains there for life. Cold sores are painful blisters filled with fluid. They usually occur on the lips. By contrast, canker sores usually occur on the tongue, inside the cheeks, or elsewhere inside the mouth.

Genital herpes are also painful blisters filled with fluid. They are caused by a close relative of HSV1, herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2). A common rule of thumb is that HSV1 causes infections above the waist and HSV2 causes infections below the waist. But that rule is not completely true. Either virus can cause infections above or below the waist. Still, the rule is a good general guideline as to where each virus is most likely to be active.

Viruses that enter the body often go through a latency period. A latency period is a stage during which the virus goes into hiding. It can be found in cells, but it is not active. There are no external symptoms that the virus is in the body.

At some point, however, the virus becomes active again. Any number of factors can cause reactivation of the virus. Physical or emotional shock is a common cause. When the virus becomes active again, symptoms of the infection reappear.

This pattern explains why cold sores and genital herpes commonly appear and then disappear. Each new appearance does not mean a new infection. It means that the virus has emerged from its latency period and become active again.

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