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What are Herpes Causes?

The cause of herpes is basically the virus known as the herpes simplex virus. There are actually many types of herpes viruses - a family of viruses known as herpesviridae is responsible for herpes and many other diseases. Of these viruses, there are two species — herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV 1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV 2) - which are the main herpes causes and responsible for causing the many diseases known as herpes. The varicella zoster virus is also a part of the same family of viruses, and causes shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster, but this disease is not usually included in the conditions described as herpes. Strictly speaking, herpes includes oral herpes and genital herpes (which are the most common forms of herpes, and which are the two conditions commonly referred to when speaking of “herpes”), ocular herpes, neonatal herpes, herpes whitlow, herpes gladiatorum, herpes encephalitis, and a form of viral meningitis sometimes known as herpes meningitis or Mollaret’s meningitis.

Causes of Herpes

The two types of herpes viruses — HSV 1 and HSV 2 — are both causes of herpes outbreaks of any form, but each virus tends to cause only specific types of herpes. Oral herpes is usually caused by the HSV 1 virus, while genital herpes is usually caused by the HSV 2 virus. HSV 1 is the cause of herpes gladiatorum and herpes keratisis (ocular herpes) too, while viral meningitis is usually caused by HSV 2. Herpes whitlow and neonatal herpes can be caused by either HSV 1 or HSV 2, sometimes depending on geographic location.

The herpes virus is very easily transmitted from one person to the next, which makes herpes a very contagious disease. Sexual contact with a person who is infected is usually the cause of genital herpes, but other forms of herpes can be transmitted much more easily by any type of physical contact that has a chance of transmission of bodily fluids in even small amounts. The virus only needs a microscopic break in the skin or mucus membrane in order to enter the body and start an infection. Any kind of intimate physical contact is therefore a potential cause of herpes. While this does not mean that all physical contact is to be avoided, it is a good idea to practice safe sex by avoiding multiple partners and always using a condom. If your partner has herpes, you should avoid any intimacy for the duration of an attack, until the symptoms have all disappeared.