My Favorite Herpes Facts
A herpes virus. Image courtesy of: http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/mmi/stannard/linda.html
I am declaring it National Herpes Day! Honestly, you can’t work with a virus for over a decade and not gain some appreciation for its lifestyle. So today I thought I would share with you facts you probably never wanted to know about herpes. At the very least, you can use them as conversation starters, or stoppers.
There are 8 known human herpesviruses. When most people hear the word herpes, they think about genital herpes, which is caused by one type of herpesvirus. There are actually 7 other human herpesviruses, many of which cause no disease in healthy people. Others cause cold sores, chicken pox and shingles, mononucleosis, birth defects, blindness and some cancers.
Besides humans, other animals also have trouble with herpes. Think of an animal, it probably has herpes. Horses – equine herpesvirus; cows – bovine herpesvirus. I think my favorites are turtle herpesvirus and channel catfish herpesvirus.
Herpesviruses have been around probably since the dinosaurs. Because herpesviruses are found in all lineages – birds, mammals, reptiles and fish, the first herpesvirus must have existed before evolution of these animals.
Herpesviruses are life-long friends. Once you are infected with a herpesvirus it hides out in your body for life. Most of the time it just hides quietly not bothering you at all. Sometimes it will cause flare-ups of disease – this is why people get cold sores or genital herpes break outs. Shingles is a flare-up of the same virus that causes chicken pox.
Herpesviruses are found in all bodily fluids. Most people know you can get herpes from having sex. But did you know that herpesviruses can also be passed in breast milk, in urine and in saliva? Yup, there is a reason mononucleosis is called the kissing disease! Because of this, young children in daycare and saliva-swapping teenagers are prime sources of herpesviruses.
You probably have at least 1 if not 2 herpesviruses. Most people don’t even know when they are infected the first time. If you are a normal, healthy person, you probably won’t show any signs. Many herpesviruses can infect up to 90% of people in a given population. Statistics say that you have the herp.
So go out there, spread these facts and share the herpes love (no pun intended, well, maybe it was).