How did I get it? That’s a universal question asked of doctors about every disease. But, when we talk of Herpes, it does have an answer – a strange one. You’re nearly always had it!
That answer doesn’t help much but it’s true. As I stated before, the virus enters our bodies during early childhood. Most children four years of age and older have experienced cold sores on the lips. The cause: Herpes simplex virus, Type 1.
The Herpes virus Type 2 enters our bodies at approximately the time of puberty. Most authorities feel it occurs at the age of 8 to 14 years. The virus can penetrate our body defenses in a myriad of ways; a scratch or cut of the skin, an abrasion such as a skinned knee, chapped or sunburned lips which crack, puncture wounds that might occur from stepping on a tack of a nail, through the cracks in the skin caused by eczema, through the digestive system or sexual contact.
How is genital herpes spread?
You can get herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. Fluids found in a herpes sore carry the virus, and contact with those fluids can cause infection.
Let us look at our defensive process and what night happen when we sustain a break in the integrity of the skin.
Our skin is like a plastic bag in which we are covered from the top of our head to the tip of our toes (with a bit of help in the small areas of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes, genitalia, and anus).
The outside surface of our skin, the epidermis, is dead; that is, it is composed of dead cells which are rubbing o continuously. These dead cells act as protection from minor scratches, abrasion, and friction. They also add a shield and insulation from variations of temperature.
The living, growing, reproducing cells of the skin are buried about a quarter of an inch under the surface. These are usually a healthy pink or purple and are not the color of the exterior tissue. When the outer layer of the skin is injured by a burn or an abrasion, the growing part, the dermis, is exposed. This tender layer is far more fragile than the epidermis. Its prime purpose is to develop new cells which will die, rise to the surface, and become a tough covering. Nature has evolved a system in which all mammals are protected by such a leathery layer of dead skin.
If the skin is injured, infective agents such as bacteria and viruses may enter into the body through the capillaries, the microscopic blood vessels that are in the dermis. Bacteria will cause a reaction quickly in the form of local infection, inﬂammation, swelling, and usually show up in a local irritation. They enter the bloodstream. From that point any virus, and speciﬁcally the Herpes virus, migrates to the nerve tissue and it becomes localized in an individual nerve cell.
The reservoir of Herpes viruses in the body is found in two primary locations: the trigeminal nerve in the area of the face, and the cluster of nerves at the base of the spine called the “Cauda equina.” The literal translation of the Latin name for that clump of nerves is “The Horse’s Tail.” The nerve cluster, when dissected anatomically, looks like a tail and the location is right.
The reason for the migration of the virus particles to these particular sites is a matter of conjecture.
HERPES BY CHANCE
My own opinion is that it occurs almost by chance. These two nerve segments are somewhat remote and have few blood vessels. Consequently, there is very little of the defensive activity of the blood to destroy the virus particles.
Imagine that a billion minute virions entered the system through a defect in the skin cover, a laceration. These tiny agents of infection quickly got into the capillaries and were scattered throughout the body. They were mixed and diluted in the bloodstream like one drop of raspberry juice in a dish of vanilla ice cream. Some went gliding along in the blood that goes to the spleen, where there is a tremendous number of lymphocytes. There they were quickly rounded up and eliminated by those defensive cells. Other virions went to the lymph glands, where a similar action took place.
Still others wandered into the ﬁltering systems of the kidneys and were washed out of the body. Other virus particles were caught by the streetsweeper cells which were patrolling the blood vessels. They too were gobbled up. All of the billion virus particles were destroyed or expelled, except for ten. These few happened to miss contact with the leucocytes and were routed by the ﬂow of the bloodstream to smaller and smaller blood vessels. Finally they reached the minute capillary which supplies a cell of one of the nerve ﬁlaments which make up the Cauda equina. Along this remote microscopic pathway few defensive blood cells ever travel. The virus particles became a part of the nerve cells. They were able to extract energy and nutrients and to exist for weeks, even months, or more probably, for years without detection or disturbance.
Then a trigger is sprung which; changes the immediate environment enough to activate those few particles to begin replication. Soon those nerve ﬁbers become agonized, and a Herpes bout is under way.
An actual infection occurs as a result of a trigger mechanism which initiates a ﬂare-up. Such a bursting forth of symptoms can be the result of one of two factors: increased exposure to the virus, or activation of the dormant virus particles by a change in the body chemistry or physiology.
INCREASED EXPOSURE TO THE VIRUS
In the ﬁrst basic cause, exposure to the virus, there is a direct increase in the amount of the virus circulating in the body of the patient. This is the result either of exposure to the active, virulent discharge from another individual who has Herpes, or of spreading the virus from one part of one’s body to another part (autoinoculation).
Herpes is different from gonorrhea and The Herpes virus is hardy and does not deteriorate as quickly as do many germs. Most pathogenic venereal disease bacteria are anaerobic, that is, they live and thrive in the absence of oxygen. When exposed to the .: oxygen of the air, the gonococcus (the speciﬁc cause of gonorrhea) expires as soon as it is dry. Because of this fact, gonorrhea is unlikely to be transmitted by using a ‘ drinking glass or wearing the clothes of someone having the disease. It is unlikely that gonorrhea can be contracted from such things as a toilet seat.
This is not true with Herpes. The virus can remain alive at least until the ﬂuid containing it has dried, a}; minimum of ﬁfteen to thirty minutes. One study reported positive cultures of the virus from plastic surfaces two to three hours after such contamination.
In light of these ﬁndings it is easy to understand how; we can unknowingly be contaminated with the virus from drinking glasses, public fountains and wash basins, toilet seats, wearing one another’s clothes, and touching one’s ﬁngers to the lesions and then to another part of our own bodies.