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Herpesvirus Infection Overview

Other common viral infections are caused by herpesviruses. Eight different herpesviruses infect people:

  • Three—herpes simplex virus type 1, herpes simplex virus type 2 (see Herpes Simplex Virus Infections), and varicella-zoster virus (herpesvirus type 3—see Chickenpox and see Shingles)—cause infections that produce blisters on the skin or mucus membranes.

  • Epstein-Barr virus (herpesvirus type 4) causes infectious mononucleosis (see Infectious Mononucleosis).

  • Cytomegalovirus (herpesvirus type 5—see Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection) is a cause of serious infections in newborns and in people with a weakened immune system. It can also cause symptoms similar to infectious mononucleosis in people with a healthy immune system.

  • Human herpesviruses 6 and 7 cause a childhood infection called roseola infantum (see Roseola Infantum).

  • Human herpesvirus 8 has been implicated as a cause of cancer (Kaposi sarcoma—see Kaposi Sarcoma) in people with AIDS.

All of the herpesviruses cause lifelong infection because the virus remains within its host cell in a dormant (latent) state. Sometimes the virus reactivates and produces further episodes of disease. Reactivation may occur rapidly or many years after the initial infection.

Did You Know...

  • All of the herpesviruses cause lifelong infection because the virus remains dormant in the cell it infects.

Treatment

Many drugs have been developed to treat one or more herpesvirus infections.

Some Antiviral Drugs for Herpesvirus Infections

Drug

Common Uses

Some Side Effects

Acyclovir

Genital herpes

Herpes zoster (shingles)

Chickenpox

Few serious side effects

Nausea

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Headache

Rashes

Kidney damage (rare)

Confusion (rare)

Cidofovir

Cytomegalovirus infections

Kidney damage

Low white blood cell count

Famciclovir

Genital herpes

Herpes zoster (shingles)

Chickenpox

Few serious side effects (similar to acyclovir)

Foscarnet

Cytomegalovirus infections

Herpes simplex virus infections

Kidney damage

Electrolyte disturbances

Seizures

Ganciclovir

Cytomegalovirus infections

Low white blood cell count

Anemia

Penciclovir (cream)

Cold sores

Few side effects

Headache

Mild burning or stinging at the site of application

Trifluridine (eye drops)

Herpes simplex keratitis (infection of the cornea)

Stinging of the eyes

Swelling of the eyelids

Valacyclovir

Genital herpes

Herpes zoster (shingles)

Chickenpox

Few serious side effects (similar to acyclovir)

Valganciclovir

Cytomegalovirus infections

Low white blood cell count

Anemia

Low platelet count

Gastrointestinal symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain)

Vidarabine (ointment)

Herpes simplex keratitis

Few side effects

Irritation of the eyes

Sensitivity to light

Resources In This Article

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

  • Generic Name
    Select Brand Names
  • CYTOVENE
  • VALTREX
  • DENAVIR
  • ZOVIRAX
  • VISTIDE
  • VALCYTE
  • FAMVIR
  • FOSCAVIR
  • VIROPTIC

* This is the Consumer Version. *