ThedaCare Health Matters

Herpes virus infections common

Herpes viruses are com-mon causes of infections in humans. When people hear herpes infection, many think about genital herpes. However, herpes viruses also cause chicken pox, shingles, infectious mononucleosis, roseola and the common cold sore.

It is reported more than 90 percent of people have had some form of herpes infection. Herpes viruses cause an acute infection that promotes an immune response to control it, but then the virus can go into a latent phase, hidden inside a cell and cause a localized outbreak at a later time. This means certain herpes infections never completely go away.

Like many other viruses, herpes viruses are made of strands of DNA surrounded by an envelope of chemicals that allow the virus to enter into a cell it comes in contact with. Once the virus gets into the cell, it can insert its DNA into the nucleus of the cell and take control of the cell forcing it to produce more viruses and in the process, damage the cell.

After the initial infection is under control, the latent phase virus can hide and then, at a later time, can reactivate in a localized area to cause pain, blisters and then scabs that heal over a two- to three-week time period. The blisters tend to be full of virus particles and can be spread to susceptible people through contact. This process keeps this virus in circulation.

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