Glossary of Terms
Antibody / antibodies – A protein produced by the body in response to the presence of a foreign body such as a bacterium, virus, or parasite. Antibodies find these foreign agents and attach themselves to them, thereby destroying them.
Antiviral medication / antiviral agent – A drug that works in the body to fight against a virus, by stopping it from multiplying. Antiviral medications are used to reduce the length, severity, and frequency of herpes outbreaks.
Asymptomatic – Occurring without any visible signs or symptoms.
Asymptomatic viral shedding – The occasional presence of the virus on the skin surface when a person has no symptoms or signs of infection at the skin (such as blisters, sores, irritation, etc.). It is possible to transmit the virus to another person during this time.
Blister – A local swelling of the skin that contains watery fluid.
Episodic therapy – Short-term treatment for herpes infections that is taken at the first sign of an outbreak and is continued for several days.
Ganglia – Bundles or groups of nerve cells in the body.
HSV – Herpes Simplex Virus, the virus that causes genital herpes and oral herpes (also called cold sores or fever blisters). There are two types of HSV: HSV-1 is most commonly associated with oral herpes and HSV-2 is most commonly associated with genital herpes, though either type can occur anywhere on the body.
Latent – Present, but not active. Latent HSV infection means that the virus is present in the body, but it is not currently causing an outbreak.
Mucous membrane – The lubricated inner lining of the mouth, nose, vagina and urethra, anus; any membrane or lining which contains mucous secreting glands. These areas are especially vulnerable to being infected with the herpes viruses.
Neonatal herpes – When a baby is infected with herpes during delivery or shortly after their birth.
Non-primary initial outbreak – The first known outbreak of symptoms of genital herpes in people who have previously been infected with the other virus type (either HSV-1 or HSV-2). This kind of outbreak is usually milder than a primary initial outbreak.
Outbreak – Symptoms caused by herpes simplex infection.
Perianal – Located around the anus.
Primary initial outbreak – The first outbreak of genital herpes in people who have never been exposed to the herpes virus before. This is sometimes the most severe outbreak a person has because their body has not built up defenses against HSV. The first outbreak a person experiences may not necessarily be a primary outbreak; it could be a non-primary initial outbreak, or a recurrence.
Prodrome – Early signs of a herpes outbreak, where a person experiences symptoms, like burning, tingling or itching in or around the affected area. Other signs may include headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Not everyone gets or can recognize a prodrome before an outbreak.
Recurrence or recurrent outbreak – An outbreak of herpes that happens after the first outbreak. The length and severity of recurrent outbreaks vary from person to person. Recurrent outbreaks are generally milder than primary initial outbreaks.
Sacral ganglia – Bundles of nerves inside the body located near the bottom of the spine. In a person with genital herpes, HSV is dormant in the sacral ganglia between outbreaks.
Serology – A blood test for that looks for antibodies present in the blood.
Spermicide – An agent that kills sperm, e.g., nonoxynol-9. Please note that nonoxynol-9 has been shown to cause ulcerations in some women’s vaginal walls.
STD – Sexually transmitted disease. Any disease that is usually passed through sexual contact.
STI – Sexually transmitted infection. Any infection that is usually passed through sexual contact.
Suppressive therapy – Continuous, daily use of antiviral medication to prevent or delay outbreaks from happening.
Transmission – The passage or transfer of a disease or infection from one person to another.
Trigger – An event that precipitates other events. Some people find certain things may trigger their outbreaks, such as stress, exposure to sunlight, menstruation, poor nutrition, and others.
Viral shedding – When the HSV virus comes to the surface of the skin. Viral shedding happens during outbreaks and, occasionally between outbreaks which is known as asymptomatic viral shedding.
Virus – Ultramicroscopic infectious agents that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protective “protein coat”. A virus can only replicate itself within cells of living hosts.