very common virus (herpes simplex virus), painful sores on the skin, with many variations, no cure; antivirals to treat and prevent symptoms


Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), of which there are two types: herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2). Although HSV-1 and HSV-2 are distinctly different viruses, they cause similar symptoms. HSV-1 usually occurs around the mouth (where it causes cold sores), and HSV-2 usually occurs in the genital and anal areas. However, infection with these viruses can occur anywhere on the body. Mucosal skin surfaces—such as those around the mouth, genitals, and eyes—are most vulnerable, as are areas of broken skin.

The Greek word herpes means “to creep,” referring to the way in which the virus moves along nerves from the root bodies out to the surface of the skin. Genital herpes was first recognized as an STD in the 1700s, but the virus itself was not identified until the early 1960s. The herpes simplex viruses are only two of the viruses in the herpes virus family, which also includes the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chicken pox and shingles; the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis; and cytomegalovirus.


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