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The Herpes Virus

Herpes is a virus that can cause sores on the skin. There are 2 types of the virus. Depending on how you come in contact with the virus, either type can cause outbreaks near the mouth or on the sex organs.

Understanding the herpes virus

Herpes reproduces only when it is inside the body. It does so by tricking a healthy cell into producing copies of the herpes virus. Each copy can infect nearby cells. But, before too long, the body’s defenses rally to stop the attack. The immune system forces the virus to retreat. Even then, the virus stays inside the body but does not cause disease. For some people, an acute outbreak never happens again. For others, outbreaks are more likely to occur due to menstruation, illness, poor diet, fatigue, exposure to cold or strong sunlight, or stress.

Cells being infected by herpes viruses.

How the herpes virus attacks

  1. The herpes virus enters the body through a small break in the skin. The virus can also enter by direct contact with mucous membranes, such as those of the lips, vagina, or anus.

  2. Inside the body, the herpes virus binds to a special site on a skin cell. Then part of the virus moves into the cell.

  3. Inside the skin cell, the virus releases a set of instructions. These commands cause the cell to begin making copies of the herpes virus.

  4. Herpes blisters appear on the skin. Herpes blisters may also appear on mucous membranes lining the mouth, vagina, or anus.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.