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Disseminated herpes simplex virus in Adult
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Disseminated herpes simplex virus in Adult

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Contributors: Philip I. Song MD, Susan Burgin MD, Belinda Tan MD, PhD, Noah Craft MD, PhD
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This topic discusses disseminated herpes simplex virus in adults and children. Neonatal herpes simplex virus is addressed separately.

Infection with herpes simplex virus type 1 or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2) usually presents as discrete groups of painful vesicles on orolabial or genital skin. However, in some instances, HSV infection may be diffuse, involving multiple sites of the body. When multiple regions of skin and/or internal viscera are concomitantly infected, the disease is termed disseminated HSV.

Clinically, disseminated HSV presents as a widespread eruption of vesicles, pustules, and/or erosions. Constitutional symptoms often occur and commonly consist of fever and regional lymphadenopathy. Most patients recover without adverse event, but progression to fatal disease can occur. Diffuse cutaneous involvement can be associated with esophagitis, meningitis, encephalitis, and fulminant hepatitis. Multi-organ failure and death can result. Prompt diagnosis and aggressive systemic antiviral therapy are keys to avoiding morbidity and mortality.

Two general groups of patients are at risk to develop disseminated HSV: patients with underlying skin disease and immunocompromised patients (such as from immunosuppression after organ transplantation, hematologic malignancies, or human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] / AIDS). In immunocompromised hosts, orofacial or genital lesions are not requisite in active disseminated HSV. Immunocompromised patients are at risk for more frequent and more severe HSV infections, involvement of internal organs, lack of response to antiviral therapy, and longer duration of viral shedding.

Acute generalized infection of previously damaged skin with HSV is known as eczema herpeticum, or Kaposi varicelliform eruption. This clinical picture may be seen in all age groups, but it most commonly occurs in the second and third decades. Most cases are due to HSV-1, but HSV-2 is also reported. Atopic dermatitis is the most common preceding condition, but the condition may also be seen in patients with various other underlying skin conditions such as Darier disease, pemphigus foliaceus, pityriasis rubra pilaris, Hailey-Hailey disease, congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma, mycosis fungoides, patients with burns, and after use of UVA phototherapy.

Pregnant women with primary HSV infection are at increased risk for severe illness, ie, dissemination and hepatitis, particularly in the third trimester.

Related Topic: Herpes Simplex Virus (Overview)


B00.7 – Disseminated herpesviral disease

13710008 – Disseminated herpes simplex

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Last Reviewed: 01/31/2017
Last Updated: 03/15/2017
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Disseminated herpes simplex virus in Adult
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Disseminated herpes simplex virus : Fever, Malaise, Skin erosion, Umbilicated vesicle, Widespread
Clinical image of Disseminated herpes simplex virus
Scattered vesicles and crusts on and around the ear.
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