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Definition of Herpes

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Herpes: A family of viruses. Herpes also refers to infection with one of the human herpesviruses, especially herpes simplex types 1 and 2.

Herpes simplex type 1, also known as human herpesvirus 1 (HHV-1), causes cold sores and fever blisters in the mouth and around it.

Herpes simplex type 2, also known as human herpesvirus 1 (HHV-1), causes genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Genital herpes is characterized by sores in the genital area.

Both herpes simplex types 1 and 2 are capable of causing systemic disease including encephalitis (infection of the brain) in someone who is immunodeficient.

The treatment of most infections with herpes simplex infections is by topical or oral anti-viral medication, although intravenous therapy is required to treat infections of the brain (encephalitis).

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