herpes simplex

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herpes simplex

herpes simplex (hûrˈpēz), an acute viral infection of the skin characterized by one or more painful, itching blisters filled with clear fluid. It is caused by either of two herpes simplex viruses: Type 1, herpes labialis, which generally involves the lip (producing what are commonly known as cold sores) or the mouth area (producing canker sores), but can involve the genital area or, in the case of herpes gladiatorum, parts of the body that have been exposed to the virus through skin-to-skin contact in sports; and Type 2, herpes genitalis, which involves the genitals, but may involve the mouth. It is believed that invasion of Type 1 herpes occurs in most persons during infancy and childhood, either as a systemic or severe local infection. Type 2 herpes, or genital herpes, is a sexually transmitted disease that became epidemic in the United States in the late 1960s. Newborns exposed to active herpes in the mother's birth canal can contract a serious form of the disease. The herpes simplex virus can be spread by an infected but asymptomatic person.

Outbreaks of both types of herpes simplex alternate with periods when the virus lies dormant in the nerve cells. The reappearance of blisters may be triggered by such factors as fever, infectious diseases, exposure to sunlight, menstruation, or pregnancy. The blisters usually last from 10 to 14 days. Treatment for recurrent herpes includes elimination of the precipitating conditions, local antibiotic treatment to prevent bacterial infection, and treatment with antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, although some resistant strains (see drug resistance) have developed. There is no cure. The herpes simplex virus is also the cause of a form of viral encephalitis.

See also herpes zoster (shingles).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Herpes Simplex


an infectious disease caused by a virus and manifested by lesions of the skin, mucous membranes, eyes, and central nervous system. Most often the skin is affected near its junction with the mucous membranes (lips, eyelids, and genitalia). Herpes simplex begins with a sensation of irritation or burning pain in the affected region. Then reddish spots appear, which are quickly transformed into a group of blisters that soon rupture and are covered with scabs. When there is repeated eruption of blisters, they usually appear in the same place. Chills, fever, and muscle pains may accompany herpes simplex. Recovery usually takes seven to 12 days. Treatment includes antibiotics, smallpox revaccination, and autohemotherapy. Preventive measures include conditioning the body against the infection and avoiding overfatigue and contact with infected persons.


Zaraznye bolezni cheloveka. Edited by V. M. Zhdanov. Moscow, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

herpes simplex

[¦hər‚pēz ′sim‚pleks]
An acute vesicular eruption of the skin or mucous membranes caused by a virus, commonly seen as cold sores or fever blisters.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

herpes simplex

an acute viral disease characterized by formation of clusters of watery blisters, esp on the margins of the lips and nostrils or on the genitals. It can be sexually transmitted and may recur fitfully
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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