Herpetic infection is a chronic recurrent infection caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV) and is characterized by a damage of covering tissues and nerve cells. The main route of herpes infection transmission is through a direct contact, though airborne and transplacental ways of transmission are also possible. A distinctive feature of the herpes infection is the ability of a virus to persist in a human organism for a long time. It provokes herpes recurrence periods, especially when the immune system is weakened.
The incubation period for HSV infection is usually 2-12 days. The onset may be either acute or gradual. Quite often the primary infection isn’t noticed by the patient and the disease becomes recurrent. Relapses may occur 2-3 times a year and extremely rarely 1-2 times in 10 years. Relapses tend to develop on the background of a weakening immunity, that’s why clinical manifestations of herpes are frequently accompanied by severe acute respiratory syndrome, pneumonia, and other acute infections.
Herpetic skin lesions are localized mainly on the lips and nose wings. First, itching and burning are felt in the localized skin area and afterward the bubbles filled with a clear content appear. The bubbles burst, leaving the shallow erosion and crusts that disappear in a few days without complications. Sometimes the bacterial flora penetrates through the damaged skin, causing secondary abscess and deteriorating the healing.
Herpetic lesions of the oral mucosa are characterized by the development of the acute or recurrent stomatitis. The disease may be accompanied by the signs of the general intoxication and fever. The mucous membrane of the mouth is covered with groups of small bubbles filled with clear content. They open quickly and leave painful erosions. Oral erosion may heal up to two weeks. Herpetic stomatitis is prone to recur.
Herpes that resembles severe acute respiratory syndrome often occurs without the characteristic bubbles on the mucous membranes and skin and the symptoms remind respiratory viral diseases. In rare cases, herpes rash is formed on the tonsils and the back of the throat.
Genital herpes is usually manifested by a local rash (bubbles are formed on the genitals) and general signs like fever, intoxication, and an increase of regional lymph nodes. The patients may report about pain in the lower abdomen and burn or itching in places of the rash localization. Genital herpes rash may progress, extending to the mucosa of the vagina and urethra. Chronic genital herpes may cause cervical cancer. In many cases, a genital rash is accompanied by the rash of mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes.
Babies and patients with severe immune deficiency may suffer from a generalized form of herpes infection characterized by a high spread of lesions on the skin, mucous membranes and internal organs on the background of the general intoxication and fever.