Herpes viruses

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2013.

The human herpes viruses (HHV) include several very common viruses that have cutaneous manifestations. The Herpesvirales family is characterised by:

  • Double-stranded DNA genome
  • Icosahedral capsid surrounded by a tegument
  • Lipid envelope derived from infected cell membranes modified by insertion of viral-encoded glycoproteins
  • Diameter of 160–200 nm
  • Infectious, latent (persistence in the host) and reactive phases of infection
The herpesvirus family
SubfamilyGenusSpeciesCommon nameAbbreviationCondition
Alphaherpesvirinae Simplexvirus Human herpesvirus 1 (HHV1) Herpes simplex virus 1 HSV1 Primary Herpes simplex (cold sores)
Reactivation: Recurrent herpes, eczema herpeticum
Human herpesvirus 2 (HHV2) Herpes simplex virus 2 HSV2 Primary Genital herpes
Reactivation: Recurrent herpes
Varicellovirus Human herpesvirus 3 (HHV3) Varicella-zoster virus VZV Chickenpox
Reactivation: Shingles
Betaherpesvirinae Cytomegalovirus Human herpesvirus 5 (HHV5) Cytomegalovirus CMV Cytomegalovirus infection
Roseolovirus Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) Roseola virus HHV6B   Roseola
Reactivation: pityriasis rosea, drug hypersensitivity syndrome
Human herpesvirus 7 (HHV7)
Gammaherpesvirinae Lymphocriptovirus Human herpesvirus 4 (HHV4) Epstein-Barr virus EBV Infectious mononucelosis
Rhadinovirus Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8) Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus KSV Kaposi sarcoma

Contribute to Dermnet

Did you find this page useful? We want to continue to deliver accurate dermatological information to health professionals and their patients — for free. Funding goes towards creating articles for DermNet, supporting researchers, and improving dermatological knowledge around the world.

Donate now with credit card or Paypal


Related information



  • Caselli E, Di Luca D. Molecular biology and clinical associations of Roseoloviruses human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7. New Microbiologica 2007:30;173-187

Books about skin diseases

See the DermNet NZ bookstore.