What is it?

It’s an infection caused by a virus from the human herpes family (HSV-I and HSV-II). Every human herpes virus has some characteristics for infection and is able to establish a latent infection (non-manifested, hidden) in man.

How is it acquired?

Transmission occurs by direct contact of an individual’s infected lesion with the skin or mucosa of a non-infected individual.

Transmission through contaminated objects is extremely rare.

It is estimated that the incubation period (from contact to disease manifestation) is of 13 to 14 days, but cases aren’t always symptomatic (manifesting the disease). Hence, the elimination of the virus without symptoms is common between outbreaks of lesions; therefore, transmitting the infection is possible in the absence of lesions.

What does one experience?

The first infection (primary infection) by both human herpes virus type 1 and 2 may take place at any site of the body. It can be asymptomatic or accompanied by fever, discomfort and ailment. Usually, these resolve within two weeks. In general, the area attacked is small, more often lying around the mouth or any part of the genital region.

Typically, under a reddish base appears a cluster of small blisters of light or yellowish color, which may form crusts and disappear.

In children, the most common form of manifestation is herpetic gingivostomatitis.

The recurrent infection is the virus’ reactivation, with a number of symptoms such as pain, burning and formication being experienced up to two days prior to the appearance of the typical lesions. Some factors, as fever, stress, menstruation and sun exposure, can trigger a recurrent infection. The frequency of recurrent infection ranges largely from one individual to another, and lesions last on average 4-5 days during an outbreak. In many individuals, recurrences slow down over time.

How does the doctor diagnose it?

In general, the diagnosis is made by lesion aspect and history.

There are some exams that can help confirm the diagnosis, and when material from a skin lesion is utilized, its collection must be performed as early as possible (preferentially, in the first 48 hours of disease progression).

How is it treated?

There are safe and effective antiviral medications (creams, ointments, pills) for treating a primary infection and recurrent infections (both during the outbreak and to prevent very frequent outbreaks). The earlier the treatment begins, the better the results are.

How is it prevented?

Avoiding direct contact with the herpetic lesion, which is contagious.

For recurrent outbreaks, try associating them with sun exposure, local traumas, stress, menstruation and immunity change.