How Many Types of Herpes Are There?

It’s natural to wonder about the different types of herpes.

After all, the information out there can get complicated and difficult to understand for the average person.

When we notice a lump, rash, or lesion in our body... we easily get scared and confused... wondering if it is herpes. These are totally normal reactions.

But don’t panic.

Just relax and take a deep breath.

The first thing to do is to set an appointment with your doctor or healthcare specialist. They are the experts who can give you advice and can prescribe you with the appropriate medication.

In the meantime, research and learn more about the many herpes types. This will equip you with the necessary knowledge you need before coming into the doctor’s office.

What are the different types of herpes?

There are currently 8 different types of herpes viruses known today. They all come from the large Herpesviridae family of DNA viruses that affect humans.

Scientists wanted to give these viruses a systematic name, thus each is designated with an Arabic numeral from 1 to 8 attached to their host-derived name.

types of herpes
  1. Human Herpes Virus 1 (HHV1) is the official name of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV1) that causes cold sores of the mouth region. It is not to be confused with canker sores which may look similar.  Cold sores are infectious and may be passed on through skin-to-skin contact via kissing or oral sex with someone with an active lesion.
  2. Human Herpes Virus 2 (HHV2) also known as Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV2) is one of the types of herpes that causes lesions around the genital area. It is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection that is usually spread through tiny breaks in the mucous membranes of the skin. HSV2 can also cause sores in the facial area through oral sex with someone experiencing a genital herpes outbreak.
  3. Human Herpes Virus 3 (HHV3) causes chickenpox and is also called the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). Once you get infected with chickenpox, you’ll be immune to the virus and never acquire it again. However, a recurrent infection called Shingles may arise from the dormant VZV virus and can cause multiple painful sores to appear in a band-like pattern on one side of the body.
  4. Human Herpes Virus 4 (HHV4) is one of the other herpes types that cause infectious mononucleosis or “kissing disease”, a contagious infection transmitted through saliva. Another name for HHV4 is the Epstein-Barr Virus.
  5. Human Herpes Virus 5 (HHV5) is also known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and also causes mononucleosis in people with weak immune systems. Those with stronger immune systems may never experience any symptoms unless they get stressed or sick. The virus is transmitted through vertical transmission (i.e. mother to baby), sexual contact, and blood transfusions among a few.
  6. Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV6) is the cause of roseola or “sixth disease” which usually targets small children. Manifestations of this disease are high fever (sometimes resulting to convulsions) and red tender rashes on the surface of the skin.
  7. Human Herpes Virus 7 (HHV7) is also one of the types of herpes that can cause roseola and is closely related with HHV6.
  8. Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV8) this virus is associated with tumors found in patients with Kaposi’s Sarcoma, an AIDS-defining illness, that form purplish growths in the skin and other tissues.

So what do I do now?

Now that you know the different types of herpes viruses, it’s time to take a closer look at what you (or your partner) may be experiencing. The infections and underlying symptoms caused by these types of herpes should be taken seriously. 

Here's some steps that you can take:

  • See your doctor. If you suspect that you (or your partner) may have contacted any one of these viruses, best is to go see your doctor and get tested immediately. That way, they can easily treat the symptoms and advice you on how to stop the infection from escalating.
  • Get tested. It can take up to 2-10 days before signs and symptoms of herpes can manifest on a person who has been recently exposed. In some people the symptoms come and go, and in others these symptoms never surface at all for months or even years. Getting tested for herpes is the wisest action you can take to get some answers.
  • Live a healthy life. Most of these viruses thrive in people with weak immune systems so make it a habit to eat healthy, incorporate some exercise, and get enough sleep and relaxation into your life. As the doctor would advise, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.

If you think you may need to get tested for any of these types of herpes, or need more information about the different options available, check out our page on Herpes Tests.

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