Herpes Simplex

Herpes Simplex is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Emergency Central is a collection of disease, drug, and test information including 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult, Davis’s Drug, McGraw-Hill Medical’s Diagnosaurus®, Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests, and MEDLINE Journals created for emergency medicine professionals. Explore these free sample topics:

Emergency Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --



  • Viral disease characterized by recurrent painful vesicular lesions of mucocutaneous areas
  • Lips, genitalia, rectum, hands, and eyes most commonly involved
  • Infection is characterized by 2 phases:
    • Primary, in which virus becomes established in a nerve ganglion;
    • Secondary, involves recurrence of disease at the same site
  • Incubation period is ∼4 days from exposure
  • Viral shedding occurs from 7–10 days (up to 23 days) in primary infection and 3–4 days in recurrent infections
  • Neonatal infections can occur in utero, intrapartum (most common), or postnatal
    • Occur in 1/3,500 births per year in the US
  • Human-to-human transmission
  • 60–90% of population is infected with herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2)
  • More common in blacks than whites in ages <40 yr
  • Females affected more than males


  • HSV-1 or HSV-2 are DNA viruses of the Herpesviridae family
  • Viral transmission may occur via respiratory droplets, contact with mucosa or abraded skin with infected secretions:
    • Recurrent mucosal shedding of HSV may transmit the virus
    • Rate of recurrence varies with virus type and anatomic site
  • Both viruses infect oral or genital mucosa:
    • Most common for HSV-1 to cause oral infections and HSV-2 to cause genital infections

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --