What is the Difference Between the two herpes simplex types?

Although the social interpretation of HSV-1 and HSV-2 has its misperceptions, more than half of patients infected with the virus even realize they have it because they show no symptoms. Microscopically the two types are identical and share 50 % of the same DNA chromosomes. To most, the virus is considered not to be a major health risk, although in rare cases HSV-1 can develop serious symptoms. With this virus, the body's mucosal surfaces are infected, the virus also establishes latency in the central nervous system. HSV-1 is commonly known as the cold sore virus, whereas, HSV-2 has the stigma associated with it because it occurs in the genital region.

Even though the different types are known to cause outbreaks in one particular area of the body, this is not true. Both types can occur either on the genitals or the lips/face/etc, where the outbreaks occur doesn't change the home of preference. For example; HSV-2, commonly known to affect the genitals, can also affect the facial area. If transmitted genital to genital than the home of preference would be the genital area whereas the breakout upon the face would be an away from home outbreak.

When the two different types occur away from home, the outbreaks are less severe and less common. The same goes with HSV-1, known as the cold sore virus showing up in the genital area. The two types can spread and reoccur without any symptoms present, the longer one has the virus the less the breakouts.

How is HSV-1 different than HSV-2?

Both viral types establish latency in the central nervous system although HSV-1 resides near the trigeminal ganglion, which is known to be a compilation of nerve cells by the ear. Thus causing break outs near the mouth, lips, and ears. HSV-1 in more severe than most understand it to be. HSV- not only has the ability to infect the lips, ears, face, and genital area, it can also occur in the eye(Ocular Herpes)which could eventually lead to blindness. Very rarely the virus spreads to the chest and face, known as wrestler's herpes. It can even spread to the hands and uncommonly, the brain, which could lead to death. (herpes encephalitis) While these conditions are very atypical they still exist. HSV-2 dwells in the lower section of the spine known as sacral ganglion, which gives reason for more frequent outbreaks on the genitals. HSV-2 is the most common cause for neonatal herpes which infects infants.

The number of break outs and how often they occur

There are three factors that depend on how well a person can control the virus and the occurrence of break outs.

  • The health of the immune system.
  • How long one has had the virus.
  • Home of Preference.

People infected with the AIDS virus, or who are suffering from cancer can be more susceptible to experiencing outbreaks more often. Infants and those taking immune supressants are also more likely to encounter a larger number of outbreaks as well. Although both virus types decrease in the number of breakouts the longer they have been infecting the host. When they do appear its more likely the virus will appear in its home of preference.

How the two types spread?

Type 1 and 2 are just as contagious as the other, spreading with or without visible symptoms, although it is more likely the virus will be transmitted with an outbreak present. When there are no visible symptoms the virus spreads virally known as viral sheding. (Kissing, saliva, etc.) This is the same for HSV-2 although the spreading is by viral culture. Once infected with either type 1 or 2 antibodies start to be produced within the bloodstream, protecting the body from the other type. In some incidences both types can infect one person, but it is very unusual with the antibodies present.



Photo Credit: deniseheff

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