Herpes Simplex and Varicella Zoster Virus Infections

Herpes simplex viruses (HSV-1, HSV-2) and varicella zoster virus (VZV) are members of the human herpes virus family.

These three viruses are constantly confused. So what is the difference between them?

Cold sores and a genital herpes infection are caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus sometimes infects other parts of the body, including the eyes (keratitis) and brain (Herpes simplex encephalitis). Herpes encephalitis is rare, but it has the potential to cause significant brain damage or death.
Traditionally, HSV-1 has been known to be associated with orolabial herpes and HSV-2 with genital herpes. However, investigations have amply documented the increased trend of genital HSV-1 in many parts of the world.

Chickenpox in children (but can also occur in adults) and shingles in adults are caused by the Varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox is due to an initial infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV). Once chickenpox has resolved, the virus may remain inactive in nerve cells. Herpes zoster (shingles), a painful, blistering skin rash, is due to a reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV) within a person's body. Risk factors for reactivation include older age, poor immune function, and having had chickenpox before 18 months of age.

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