Many people attach negative associations to the term ‘herpes’. In fact, there are small differences between shingles and herpes, which produce variations of the identical infection.
The sexually transmitted disease, genital herpes, normally occurs when a person has unprotected sex with numerous partners but it can occur in anybody who has had sex even if only once and their partner has the infection. Genital herpes is caused by the HSV (Herpes simplex virus).
There are almost 100 different types of herpes which affect humans – genital herpes or HSV-2 is only one, while other highly contagious herpes infections can be transmitted via casual contact.
For example, HSV-1 generally causes oral cold sores and may be contracted from infected people through sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, a casual kiss or having skin to skin contact like wiping a child’s mouth if you have tears or saliva on the tips of your fingers.
Research shows that about 98% of healthy people carry and shed the HSV-1 virus without having an active outbreak. Research reveals how highly contagious it is and also how prevalent it is.
The cytomegalovirus is a herpes virus which causes flu like conditions in adults but may have devastating effects on unborn children.
Herpes varicella-zoster causes chicken pox in children. Prior to vaccine development, family and friends held ‘chicken pox parties’ so that children between 4 to 6 years were infected to prevent them contracting the disease when they grew older when it became a bigger health risk which could result in permanent damage and even death (in their 20’s and older). It produces greater discomfort and pain in older people while lasting longer.
Herpes varicella-zoster will most likely lie dormant for many years after an initial infection and has the potential to reactivate in certain conditions. The reactivated virus causes Shingles which is most common in people over 60 years old who may have considerable stress levels, younger people whose immune systems have been compromised, recipients of organ transplants, cancer victims or effects of medication on immune systems.
Shingles infection mostly presents in the body’s trunk or buttocks alongside specific nerve dermatomes and stays on one side following a specific nerve bundle pathway. Shingles and herpes differ in that shingles is not commonly reactivated a second time after healing (provided the person’s immune system is not compromised) while herpes can reoccur many times.
Shingles is normally painful and often clears on its own requiring supportive pain treatment. Herpetic neuralgia occurs sometimes when the pain does not disappear as the skin clears. It can cause nerve pain which is severe and difficult to control and treat.