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HSV and pregnancy

Giovanni Maga maga at vetbio.unizh.ch
Tue Feb 13 13:28:09 EST 1996

In article <4fnk74$d4o at linus.mitre.org>, Janice LaRock <jlarock at mitre.org>

> I'm currently about 12 1/2 weeks pregnant, and have just gotten an 
> outbreak (not primary) of HSV (supraorbital).  I'm using zovirax cream to 
> control it, because I really don't want to take the oral on the chance 
> that it could hurt the baby.  So far, the infection is being moderately 
> controlled, although the oral acyclovir would be more effective.  But it 
> occurred to me yesterday that I don't know if the virus itself could hurt 
> the baby.  
> Does the virus get into my bloodstream, and cross the placenta?  There is 
> some lymph involvement (in front of my ear, and in my neck on the 
> affected side); could the kid catch HSV in utero?
> Thanks for the info.

HSV 1 and HSV 2 neonatal infections are quite rare. These viruses seem not
to be able to cause transplacental infections. The reported cases of HSV
neonatal infections are mainly due to infection of the newborn during
delivery. Most cases are due to HSV type 2. It seems likely to me that
your outbreak is due to HSV 1. However, HSV 1 has been also shown to cause
neonatal infections, but in only about 5% of babies exposed to a maternal
recurrency (as in your case). Usually, prevention focuses on cesarean
section of women with active HSV genital lesions, to avoid contact of the
newborn with the infected part.
I would suggest you to ask your physician about the identity of the virus
(either type 1 or 2). As I mentioned before, transplacental infection is
not likely to occurr. Since the HSV outbreaks usually recede spontaneously
in a few weeks, at the time of delivery there should be no active lesion
anymore. To be absoultely sure, vaginal colture should tell you if there
is genital infection.
Above all, do not worry but ask your physician or gynecologist for advice.
Best wishes to you and your baby. 

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