Jenkins, Frank J. Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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- Characteristics of the virus
- Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2
- Varicella-zoster virus
- Human herpesviruses 6A, 6B, and 7
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Human herpesvirus 8
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Any virus belonging to the Herpesviridae family, or an infection caused by this type of virus. Herpes is a term used to describe any of the more than 130 herpesviruses (members of the Herpesviridae family). It is also used to describe the infections that often result from exposure to herpesviruses. Nine herpesviruses are known to infect humans: herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 (see illustration), varicella-zoster virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, two forms of human herpesvirus 6 (designated HHV-6A and HHV-6B), human herpesvirus 7, and human herpesvirus 8. The hallmark of all herpesvirus infections is the establishment of latency in which the virus is present within an infected cell, but does not produce virus. Once a cell is infected, the virus cycles between a latent infection and reactivation, resulting in active replication. Most herpesvirus infections are subclinical, that is, not resulting in signs or symptoms indicating infection. Infections that do result in clinical disease can result in serious morbidity and, in rare cases, mortality. The severe forms of herpetic diseases occur most often in very young children or immunosuppressed individuals. Reactivation of latent herpesviruses to a productive replication also can result in serious disease. The rate of reactivation varies, depending on which herpesvirus is involved and the person's immune status. See also: Animal virus; Immunosuppression; Virus; Virus classification; Virus infection, latent, persistent, slow
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