How are herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections transmitted?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019
  • Author: J Michael Klatte, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Answer

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections are ubiquitous and have a wide range of clinical manifestations (see the images below). Beyond the neonatal period, most primary HSV-1 infections occur in infancy and childhood and are transmitted primarily by contact with infected saliva. Primary HSV-2 infections are acquired after onset of sexual activity, and genital herpes infections are among the most common sexually transmitted infections.

Primary herpes simplex virus (HSV) gingivostomatit Primary herpes simplex virus (HSV) gingivostomatitis in an infant is shown. This same patient also had concomitant herpes whitlow as shown in the following image.
Herpes whitlow in an infant. Herpes whitlow in an infant.

See 13 Common-to-Rare Infant Skin Conditions, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify rashes, birthmarks, and other skin conditions encountered in infants.

Also, see the Herpes Simplex Viruses: Test Your Knowledge slideshow for more information on clinical, histologic, and radiographic imaging findings in HSV-1 and HSV-2.


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