Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections are common and can occur in anyone at any age. HSV is highly contagious, transmitted through direct contact of the infected area. Once infected with the virus, a person can have recurring episodes of the blister outbreaks. The two main types of HSV include the oral strain (HSV-1) and the genital strain (HSV-2). Herpes lesions may appear anywhere on the body, although HSV-1 is most common around or in the mouth, nose, and facial area whereas HSV-2 appears most often in the genital areas and also the mouth area from oral sex with an infected partner. The virus can be treated but not cured.

Physical exam

Early signs include pain, tingling, and/or itching in the area infected followed by inflammation and development of small, grouped blisters on red skin that may progress to pustules which rupture, weep, and crust. Ulceration and secondary bacterial infections may occur. Recurring herpes lesions often appear in the same area as the first outbreak and may become less severe over time.


  • Avoiding direct contact with affected areas is the key to limiting spread of this disease. Lesions will usually heal without medical treatment. Anti-viral ointments and oral medications (acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir) can be used to reduce the severity and time course of an outbreak.
  • For recurrent herpes outbreaks, oral medications (acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir) can be taken regularly to prevent future outbreaks.
  • Other anti-viral medications, Vindarabine and Foscarnet, are used only if the other medications fail.
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