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- Chronic, recurrent herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or 2 infection of any area innervated by the sacral ganglia
- HSV-1 causes anogenital and orolabial lesions.
- HSV-2 causes anogenital lesions.
- Primary episode: occurs in the absence of preexisting antibodies to HSV-1 or HSV-2 (may be asymptomatic)
- First episode nonprimary: initial genital eruption; preexisting antibodies are present.
- Reactivation: recurrent episodes
- Synonym(s): herpes genitalis
- Most commonly infected from age 15 to 30 years; prevalence increases with age due to cumulative likelihood of exposure.
- Predominant sex: female > male
- Predominant race: non-Hispanic blacks
>700,000 new cases per year in the United States
- Overall prevalence of HSV-2 is 10–40% in the general population and up to 60–95% in the HIV-positive population (1).
- Up to 90% of seropositive persons lack formal diagnosis.
- >50 million are infected with HSV-2 in the United States.
Etiology and Pathophysiology
- HSV is a double-stranded DNA virus of the Herpetoviridae family (1).
- Spread via genital-to-genital contact, oral-to-genital contact, and via maternal–fetal transmission (2)
- Incubation is 4 to 7 days after exposure.
- Risk of transmission highest when lesions are present
- Viral shedding is possible in the absence of lesions, increasing the risk of transmission since precautions may not be followed (abstinence, condom use). Viral shedding occurs intermittently and unpredictably.
- HSV infection increases the risk for HIV.
- Risk increases with age, number of lifetime partners, history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), history of HIV, sexual encounters before the age of 17 years, and partner with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
- Infection with HSV-1 increases the risk of being infected with HSV-2 by 3-fold.
- Immunosuppression, fever, stress, and trauma increases risk of reactivation.
Commonly Associated Conditions
Syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other STIs