Herpes is the generic term for a group of viruses including herpes zoster and herpes simplex viruses. These organisms cause the outbreak of painful sores and blisters on the body. Herpes zoster is not a sexually transmitted disease. For the purpose of this blog, great attention will be paid to only the herpes simplex virus, which is a sexually transmitted organism.
To treat herpes simplex infection, its diagnosis must first be made. In the United States and all over the world, the rate of the infection is rising owing to increasing changes in sexual lifestyles. The virus is simply everywhere and can adjust itself to the biological composition of its host.
There are two types of the herpes simplex virus:
- One that affects the mouth and the face with cold sores. It is known as herpes simplex virus type 1 or HSV-1 or oral herpes, and
- One that affects the genitals with sores and lesions/wounds. It is known as herpes simplex type 2 or HSV-2 or genital herpes.
Be that as it may, oral herpes can cause genital infection even more than the genital herpes simplex virus can do in some populations.
Many persons infected with herpes simplex virus do not show any symptoms which inadvertently makes the disease to spread quickly. The handful who have symptoms usually get very sick and experience recurrences of the infection.
Luckily, the body's immune response is a vital defense against herpes simplex and that is why in persons whose immunity has become compromised, such as HIV/AIDS patients, the infection from herpes can cause severe life-threatening complications. In the United States, herpes simplex virus is the most common cause of genital ulcers of which women are more likely to be infected than men.
A pregnant woman can transmit the infection to her baby during delivery. Genital herpes in growing children can be a sign of sexual abuse. Also, persons who are sexually active and those who have multiple sexual partners are at a high risk of contracting and spreading herpes simplex virus. Furthermore, a large percentage of African Americans/blacks are positive to herpes simplex infection.
The infection is spread through sexual contacts by the introduction of the virus into the mouth, cervix, conjunctiva of the eyes, or through small cracks on the skin. Diagnosing the infection can be done by tissue culture, using Tzanck smears to demonstrate the changes in the structure and function of the host's cells caused by the herpes simplex virus
Alternatively, polymerase chain reaction can be used for the infection that has affected the central nervous system and eyes. Others are immunofluorescence, imaging studies, and antibody testing. Modern science has ensured that rapid testing for the presence of herpes simplex virus is possible with a herpes home testing kit.
Treatment of HSV
Treating herpes simplex infection requires administering antiviral drugs depending on the area of the body affected and whether it is a first-time outbreak or a recurrent one. Consequently, an appropriate drug regimen would be recommended by a doctor.
According to some new research outcome, a person whose immunity has been compromised and who has a life-threatening infection from HSV or one whose brain has been invaded by the virus would require a high dosage of Acyclovir which is administered intravenously.
However, in an HIV-positive patient, or any other immune compromised person resistant to Acyclovir, Cidofovir and Foscarnet are among the choice drugs administered instead. The disadvantage of both drugs is that they are toxic to the kidneys.
For the first or primary outbreak of herpes, 200 milligrams of Acyclovir is given orally five times daily for 10 days. In persons who are having a second, third, or more infection from the herpes simplex virus, no typical treatment is followed.
Sometimes, antiviral creams or lotions are given for application on the affected areas. A treatment option which prevents the recurrence of the infection is by taking oral Acyclovir, 400 mg twice daily for up to a year, or oral Valacyclovir, 500 mg twice daily for a year.
This is called long-term suppressive therapy. At the end of the therapy, an assessment is made to note the effectiveness of the therapy in keeping the infection from recurring. Acyclovir is recommended for infected pregnant women.
Cost of treating herpes simplex infection
In 1996, the direct medical cost of general herpes infection in the United States was estimated at 984 million US dollars. Indirect cost from loss of functional abilities and inability to be productive, amongst other disadvantages, amounted to more than 214 million dollars. From 2006 to 2013, routine discharges from emergency department visits for herpes simplex infections cost about 543.0 million dollars.
Indeed, it is way too burdensome to tackle STDs with no excuses made for herpes. This explains why health professionals insist on early and routine testing to discover the infection on time and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand and become very expensive to treat.