What are the diseases caused by the herpes viruses?

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It is important to note that herpes has long been linked with sexually transmitted diseases. Actually, the herpes viruses are comprised of a number of distinguishing viruses that frequently affect humans. The most prevalent of these are capable of causing diseases that range from chicken pox to chronic fatigue syndrome or even shingles and mononucleosis. The herpes viruses are among the most common human infectious agents.

Herpes simplex

The herpes simplex exist as two types – HSV I and HSV II. The herpes simplex I typically cause superficial infections of the skin, throat, mouth, eye and vagina. The cold sores are an example of the HSV I infection. As for the herpes simplex II, it is the usual cause of most genital infections and increasing cases of eye infections.

If a mother with an active HSV II infection gives birth vaginally, there is the risk of passing the infection to the baby. Take note that neonatal herpes infections can be deadly if not treated. Once infected, the herpes viruses stay dormant in the nerve ganglia of the body, only to emerge again during stress or when the immune system is weakened.

Varicella zoster virus

The varicella zoster can cause initial infection in childhood as chicken pox. The subsequent reactivation of the virus can cause a sore condition known as shingles or herpes zoster. This condition causes the development of sore vesicle formation through a sensory nerve in the skin. The possibility of acquiring shingles rises with age. Even after the skin rash resolves, the individual can end up with pain and tingling sensation in the skin for years.

Other neurologic conditions that the varicella virus causes include Ramsay Hunt syndrome and segmental myelitis. In addition, it can also instigate immune-related conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.


Most adults in developed countries have antibodies to cytomegalovirus (CMV) which indicates previous infection by the virus. It is important to note that CMV is one of the prevalent newborn viral infections in some countries. Some of these infants develop lasting consequences including hearing loss, mental retardation, seizures and chorioretinitis.

Among adults, CMV can cause hepatitis and pneumonia. Remember that this condition can also trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome. Once an individual is immunocompromised particularly those with AIDS, the virus can rapidly spread to the brain, intestinal tract and the eyes. IV antiviral agents are used aggressively in managing this condition.

Epstein-Barr virus

The Epstein-Barr virus is considered one of the herpes viruses found in 90-95% of all adults. This condition typically causes unrecognized infection among children. In some adolescents and adults, the condition manifests as the infectious mononucleosis. The symptoms include high fever of 102-104 degrees F, swollen lymph nodes, extremely sore and reddened throat as well as spleen or liver inflammation or possibly acute hepatitis. Among those who have weakened immune systems, the Epstein-Barr virus can lead to cancerous conditions. In addition, the virus has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome which is marked with at least 6 months of severe fatigue that could not be relieved with rest.

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