Types of herpes

Almost everyone has heard about herpes, as it is a very common infection. What not everyone knows is that There are several types of herpes, each with different characteristics, as well as with different levels of severity.

The most common types of herpes are variants 1 and 2 of herpes simplex. It is estimated that about half of the population has experienced herpes simplex type 1 ever. As for herpes simplex type 2, it is likely that it has suffered up to a third of the population.

None of the types of herpes have a cure, but there are medications that reduce symptoms and decrease the possibility of contagion to other people. Either way, in most cases, a person with herpes can lead a completely normal life.


Herpes is an infection caused by viruses belonging to the family herpesviridae. In its simple form, it is characterized by the appearance of small vesicles that contain fluid. These lesions can be very painful. Sometimes they break, form ulcers and scabs, which sometimes leave a scar.

There are 50 different types of herpes virus. They have in common the fact that everyone can cause an infection. Then, they remain dormant and may be reactivated later, causing recurrent infections.

The word herpes comes from the Greek root ‘herpein ’, which means ‘snake’. Its latency property was not discovered until 1950, by Burnet and Budding. Some types of herpes can cause difficulties that affect the quality of life significantly.

Types of herpes: Herpes Simplex virus type 1 or HSV-1

This type of herpes mainly affects the lips, the mouth and its surroundings. It is more frequent in children. It is the most frequent herpes and is usually exacerbated by various circumstances such as stress, fever, exposure to sunlight and even menstruation. Usually, recurrences are milder than the first occurrence.

Types of herpes: Herpes Simplex virus type 2 or HSV-2

This herpes affects the genital area and lor more commonly it is transmitted by sexual contact. The lesions it produces are similar to those that appear on the lips or on the face. The initial episode, very frequently, goes without symptoms, so it can go unnoticed. Instead, subsequent episodes are usually very painful.

If a woman has active type 2 herpes during childbirth, you can pass it on to the baby. This results in neonatal herpes. Eventually, this causes problems in the nervous system and, in some cases, can have a fatal outcome.

The Zoster, one of the types of herpes

This is one of the types of herpes that can lead to more severe complications. The original infection is chickenpox. Then, the virus migrates to the sensitive nerve fibers and remains dormant in the dorsal root ganglia.

The regrowth of the virus gives rise to herpes-zoster, which appears along the path of the nerve where it was housed. It is usually very painful and, in a few cases, generates symptoms that can last for years. It is believed that 20% of the population may manifest this form of herpes.

Types of herpes: Epstein-Barr virus

It is associated with infectious mononucleosis. In children it usually goes unnoticed, but in adolescents it triggers the disease. This can cause asymptomatic dissemination, which means that it is spread without symptoms immediately present.

Only in a few cases does it give rise to complications such as meningoencephalitis or Guillian Barré syndrome. It is a very benign disease at an early age.

Read also: Infectious mononucleosis


This virus can infect an average of 50% to 80% of people. However, it is uncommon to manifest as a disease. Typically, it remains dormant in the kidney, heart and white blood cells.

Normally, it is reactivated in people who have depressed their immune system. It is common in patients with AIDS, for example. It does not have a specific symptomatology and there are no drugs defined exclusively for its treatment.

You may be interested: Myths and truths about HIV and AIDS

Herpes 6, 7 and 8

HHV-6 was first found in 1986 in patients with AIDS. It is believed that this virus of the herpes family is the cause of roseola and it is also associated with different neurological problems. It has two variants:

  • HHV-6 type A: It occurs in young children and does not cause major symptoms. In adolescence it is reactivated with a similar picture to that of mononucleosis.
  • HHV-6 type B: It is believed that all adults are infected with the HHV-6B type, which does not give rise to symptoms, let it be known.

The HHV-7 also results in roseola paintings. Meanwhile, HHV-8 is associated with Kaposi's sarcoma. All these types of herpes occur mainly in people with AIDS or immunosuppressed.

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