Herpes viruses are part of a family of viruses called Herpesviridae, which is a family that contains more than 100 types of viruses, yet only 8 are those that cause disease in humans. Most herpes viruses are extremely contagious and cause important symptoms that must be taken into account as they can become severe and affect health. But, how do you know if you have herpes?
Many herpes viruses can affect human health, the most important of which are: herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, HSV-1 and HSV-2, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) and Kaposi's Sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV).
Herpes simplex virus type 1 usually causes disease in the oral area. It causes blisters around the mouth, on the lips and eventually inside the mouth. You will know if you have herpes when the blisters develop into ulcers, which make eating painful. They are filled with a fluid that crusts over, before drying up and disappearing. Sometimes the virus causes red and swollen gums, fever, muscle aches, a general feeling of malaise, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
When the virus reactivates, it can cause tingling or numbness around the mouth before blisters appear.
Symptoms are usually absent or so mild that they can be mistaken for bites. The first outbreak usually occurs two days to two weeks after infection and symptoms include:
- Decreased desire to eat.
- general malaise
- Sore muscles in the back, knees, thighs or buttocks.
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin.
Usually intense burning or tingling. This symptom is followed by blisters on the skin. They usually appear on the back, abdomen, and chest, but can also appear on the eyes, face, mouth, and ears. Other symptoms that people with shingles often have include
- Pain in the abdomen: this can appear two or three days before the blisters appear.
- General malaise.
- High fever and chills.
- Ulcers in the genital region.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Pain in the joints of the head
When the disease begins to manifest itself, 7 to 14 days after infection, there is a general malaise, headache, asthenia, myalgia, or abdominal pain, although sometimes the onset is abrupt or acute and the patient suddenly develops a high fever.
In general terms, the symptoms are:
- Fever, usually high.
- Inflammation of the cervical or occipital lymph nodes.
- Splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen).
Symptoms and sequelae of cytomegalovirus infection vary depending on the group affected. In healthy children and adults, infection is usually asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. It may produce a catarrhal condition, pharyngitis, or, at most, a mononucleosis syndrome similar to that caused by the Epstein Barr virus. In pregnant women, it can affect the baby in varying degrees of neurological involvement. In severe cases, it leads to long-term mental or psychomotor retardation.
It can also cause deafness and, less frequently, affect vision.
In people with a weakened immune system, cytomegalovirus infection can cause pneumonia, hepatitis, encephalitis, inflammation of the retina (retinitis), febrile syndromes, and gastrointestinal pathology.
Rosalea in infants is the classic presentation of primary HHV-6 in humans. In immunocompetent individuals, primary HHV-6 infection is often asymptomatic or may manifest clinically as a febrile illness associated with a rash, diarrhoea, respiratory symptoms, seizures, or encephalitis.
Primary human herpesvirus 7 infections are usually asymptomatic and are associated with multiple clinical entities in early childhood, including sudden exanthema, febrile illness without exanthema, febrile seizures, febrile status epilepticus, and encephalitis.
Based on the literature on clinical manifestations of human herpesvirus 7, the most frequently reported was febrile convulsion. The second most common presentation of human herpesvirus 7 viremia is non-specific fever, with a mean temperature of 40.1 o C. Currently, the association with pityriasis rosea is still under debate.
Kaposi's sarcoma lesions usually appear on:
- Skin and mucous membranes. Mostly in the mouth (palate, gums) or on the genitals, in the form of wine-red spots or nodules between 0.5 and 2 cm in size. They may coalesce and form large plaques, and there may be ulcers and swelling of the skin areas where they appear. Kaposi's sarcoma is preferentially located on the chest, face, and mouth. Isolated lesions may appear on the tip of the nose, cheeks, behind the ear, scalp, and hard palate. In severe cases, it is not limited to the skin and may affect internal organs.
- Digestive system. This is one of the most common non-cutaneous sites and can sometimes appear before the skin. Generally, there are few symptoms but some patients present with diarrhoea or abdominal pain. Haemorrhages are rare. The entire gastrointestinal tract can be affected by Kaposi's sarcoma, but the stomach and duodenum are the preferred sites.
- Less commonly, the lungs can be affected, causing coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and even blood-tinged sputum.
- Other less frequent sites include the heart, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, testicles, spleen, lymph nodes, and conjunctivae.
The symptoms of diseases caused by herpes viruses can be very severe and can affect health significantly. However, some can be prevented, so implementing preventive actions is of vital importance. Avoid sharing glasses, cutlery, towels, lipstick, because if the user of these objects has one of these pupae the virus can survive in them and infect you. Of course, you should not kiss a person with a cold sore either. The use of condoms represents a preventive measure, maintaining good hygiene habits and taking care of contact with other people when we are infected and thus avoiding the spread of the virus.