Herpes is a viral infection caused by the virus Herpesviridae which infects humans. Producing or shedding of the virus by an infected person can cause it to spread.
Herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-1 & HSV-2) are the two members of the Herpesviridae virus family that infects humans. It is also known as human herpes virus 1 and human herpes virus 2(HHV-1 & HHV-2). Both HSV-1 & HSV-2 are contagious and ubiquitous.
Diagnosis of HSV
A doctor should be consulted when the symptoms or sores are still present. A sample taken from the affected area can be tested for the herpes virus. If the sores have already healed, the test will not work.
Symptoms of HSV
Symptoms usually develop anywhere between two and twenty days after contact has occurred between the person and the virus. It can although take longer than twenty days in some cases. Depending on each person, the symptoms can last from days to weeks. Mild infections often go unnoticed and it may take years for you to realize that you are infected with HSV.
The first attack of the HSV in the infected person can cause sores and subsequently they may cause lesions. The skin often heals leaving no visible scars. But after this the virus retreats back into the nervous system and remains dormant. Infected persons can have 4 to 5 outbreaks in a year. But as time goes by, the frequency of attacks will decrease.
The typical symptoms are:
Tests Available of HSV
If there are no visible symptoms but the person suspects that he/she has HSV, then blood tests can be done. Western Blot is the standard test for diagnosing HSV. New blood tests that are type specific have recently been approved by the FDA. They are faster, easier and less expensive than the Western Blot test. POCkit HSV2 Rapid Test (Diagnology) is accurate in testing for HSV 2 that causes genital herpes. The test can give results in ten minutes or less. Meridian Premier (Meridian Diagnostics) and HerpeSelect (Focus Technologies) offer blood tests for the HSV 1 virus. However it cannot tell you whether it is a genital or oral infection.
Other tests which are available are:
- Cell Culture Test
- Antigen test
- Pap Smear
Transmission of HSV
Herpes is contracted by having direct contact with the affected area. The area that comes in contact with the cold sore will get infected. Most of the time it is spread when a sore is visible. But it can happen anytime from the start of an attack till the skin in the area is completely healed. Sexual contact at this time is considered to be very risky. Asymptomatic transmission of herpes is also possible, i.e., when there are no visible symptoms or signs.
Risks Involved in HSV
Self infection - The infection can be transmitted from the affected area to other parts of the body such as eyes and fingers simply by touching the sore. This can be avoided by not touching the sore and washing your hands with water and soap if you do have contact.
Pregnancy - If symptoms are present at the time of delivery; it can be transmitted to the baby. A baby infected with the virus can have serious developmental issues later. If the virus is not found in the birth canal, a normal delivery is possible. Otherwise a cesarean section will be necessary so that the newborn does not come in contact with the herpes virus.
Treatment for HSV
Vaccines for HSV are being investigated and may be available in the market in three to five years. Howeer, it will only help to prevent infection and will not benefit those who already have it. Isoniplex (Isoprinosine) is helpful in activating the immune system to respond against the herpes virus. Some drugs have been found to decrease the number of attacks in infected persons. Keeping the affected area clean and dry can also help. An immune system that is healthy has been found to be the best remedy. Alternative treatments are also available for herpes.
Types of HSV
Herpes may cause:
- Oral Herpes-fever blisters or cold sores
- Genital herpes-sores that are usually found below the waist or genital sores