The five most important herpes infections in humans are:
- Herpes simplex I + II (HSV) - see "Cold sores" and "Herpes genitalis".
- Herpes zoster (VZV) - see "Shingles - Herpes zoster".
- The Epstein Barr virus (EBV) - see "Glandular fever - Mononucleosis".
- The Cytomegalovirus (CMV).
HSV can be found in two forms: HSV-1 and HSV-2. It is the HSV-1 that causes the so-called cold sores but it also causes herpes genitalis, genital rash. It is the HSV-2, however, that is responsible for the aggressive tendency of Herpes genitalis to develop repeated outbreaks.
A virus that can be found in two types: Type I especially causes rashes on the facial skin and the oral mucosa. Type II especially causes rashes on the genitals. Infection is transmitted through direct- or intimate contact and possibly also through droplet infection.
A local skin infection which starts as a tickling, prickling, itching, or stinging reddish spot and has the appearance of one or several small collections of clear blisters will form in the epidermis in a matter of 24 hours. Shortly after, the blisters will burst and leave a yellowish brown crust which will fall off.
The skin below will become normal again after a couple of days. If the wound dries up, it heals more quickly without scar formation but the wound will be more susceptible to infection with bacteria. The blisters will most often appear in the same place as before. The whole course usually lasts 8 - 10 days.
The most common symptoms are a swollen and sore skin area, irritation, stabbing pain, possibly increases in temperature and tiredness on the verge of exhaustion. The blister itself causes a minor discomfort. Collections of blisters, however, can be a suffering. Sometimes the surrounding lymph nodes will swell and become tender.
It is estimated that a great many people have carried the herpes virus from their childhood without noticing it. The active virus can hibernate in the nervous system of an infected person. If a reduction in the person's resistance occurs, the virus will wander via the nerves and provoke a rash (outbreak).
The course of the infection usually becomes more of a nuisance with age. To remove the herpes virus from the organism after it having settled is rarely successful - that is if it can be done at all!
Avoiding outbreaks that strain the immune system is what matters. Some infected people only have a single outbreak of herpes while, in other people, the herpes outbreaks re-occur again and again. Men generally have more re-occuring herpes outbreaks than women.
The risk of repeated herpes outbreaks can be caused by different forms of weakening of the immune system.
The weakening of the immune system can be provoked by:
- Physical and mental stress; worries, sorrow, traumas, anger, and sexual guilt - and thereby a strained immune system.
- A lack of rest.
- Active and passive smoking.
- Poisoning by e.g. amalgam fillings.
- Environmental strains from e.g. pesticides.
- Nutritional imbalances, e.g. too small amounts of fruits and vegetables, a one-sided diet, and fast food.
- A lack of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
- Cold, flu, stomach problems, and other kinds of infections, e.g. fungal infections.
- Thermal stimuli.
- Strong sunshine.
Herpes simplex is an increasing health problem in the Western world, possibly on account of the increased speed of working, increased sexual activity with changing partners, and a decreased use of condoms because of the increasing use of contraceptive pills. It is still not known how many are infected. 80% of the cases in the Western world are caused by outbreaks on the genitals. In the U.S., an estimated 40% have re-occuring herpes infections and in several European countries, an estimated 50% have or have had a herpes infection.
Quite a few researchers point to the fact that the herpes virus is the possible hidden causal factor behind a long line of diseases such as migraine, infection of the oral mucosa, cystitis, encephalitis, hepatitis, and inflammation of the spinal cord. For this reason, some researchers have recommended that the virus should be kept in check (and be kept permanently weakened) by the amino acid lysine.