|Herpes viruses are the major cause of human viral disease, second only to influenza and cold viruses. They can trigger either overt disease or remain silent for years. The term herpes derives from the Latin 'herpes' which, in turn, derives from the Greek word 'herpein' which means 'to creep'. This describes the creeping or spreading nature of the skin lesions caused by many herpes virus types.
Herpes affects an astounding number of people worldwide. Millions of people are carriers of HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus}, the strain primarily triggering genital herpes. Many of these people do not even know they are carriers. The virus is believed to be hard to preclude primarily because of the lack of information on it.
What is herpes?
There is neither vaccine nor cure for herpes. The virus enters the skin cells and multiplies, finally triggering irritation, redness and sores. Once this outbreak subsides, herpes virus travels from the nerve cells to the spinal cord, where it rests until another outbreak. In spite of this, it is possible to live a normal and happy life with herpes, including an active intimate life and childbirth.
What does an outbreak look like?
Herpes lesions are small sores or blisters that occur singly or in groups. They range from mildly to exceedingly painful and itch, burn or feel like cuts. The lesions look like red, white or grey blisters or open sores. Because it travels along nerve endings, herpes normally re-appear close to the site of initial infection.
Outbreaks can last from a few days to several weeks. The first outbreak commonly occurs within 2-21 days of infection. Severity and duration typically diminish with recurrences, as soon as the body has developed a defence of antibodies. Unless sores become infected with bacteria, they usually do not scar.
Outbreaks can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms: general uneasiness, bad headaches, muscle aches, fever, tiredness or swollen lymph nodes. However, some people may have few or no symptoms, which is one reason why herpes is so widespread. An outbreak can also appear within the vagina or on the cervix, testicles or scrotum, where it may not be easily seen or felt.
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