How is Herpes Zoster different from the Herpes Simplex Virus?

Herpes Zoster and the Herpes Simplex virus are constantly confused. The Herpes viruses causes both these conditions and both these conditions are rashes. So what is the difference between them?

The Herpes Virus

There are eight types of herpes viruses known to affect humans. They are called the Herpes Human Viruses (HHV). These viruses are:

  1. HHV1 – HSV1 (Herpes Simplex Virus 1 commonly known as oral herpes)
  2. HHV2 – HSV2 (Herpes Simplex Virus 2 commonly known as genital herpes)
  3. HHV3 – VZV (Varicella Zoster Virus commonly known as chickenpox or shingles)
  4. HHV4 – EBV (Ebstein Barr Virus commonly known as infectious mononucleosis [mono or glandular fever])
  5. HHV5 – CMV (Cytomegolo Virus is the most common virus transmitted to a pregnant woman’s unborn child)
  6. HHV6 – Roseolovirus more commonly known as the 6th disease or Roseola Infantum
  7. HHV7 – Similar to HHV6 (not yet classified)
  8. HHV8 – A type of rhadinovirus known as the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)

The different types of Human Herpes Viruses (HHV) work differently in your body and therefore cause different symptoms.

Let us look at some of the symptoms of both these conditions:

Herpes Zoster (Chickenpox or Shingles)

Herpes Simplex Virus (Oral Herpes and Genital Herpes)

  • Rashes on your body
  • Blisters
  • Chickenpox symptoms show 7 – 21 days after contracting VZV for the first time.
  • Painful, irritating and itchy rashes
  • Shingles symptoms usually appear years after a chickenpox infection.
  • Fatigued, tired and weak feeling.
  • A generally sick feeling
  • Chickenpox is very contagious during 7-21 day period.
  • Shingles is not very contagious.
  • Pain
  • Sore muscles
  • Blisters and sores on or around the genital area and lip area.
  • Cold and flu like symptoms.
  • Dormant virus is activated by sunlight, stress, fatigue, pregnancy, injury to genital area or mouth.
  • Rash and bumps on skin
  • Fever
  • Symptoms take 7 to 14 days to clear.
  • Very contagious

So what is the difference between Herpes Zoster and Herpes Simplex Virus?

  1. The VZV human herpes virus causes Herpes Zoster.
  2. The HSV human herpes virus causes Herpes.
  3. Herpes Zoster usually occurs once in a person’s life as Chickenpox and may recur many years later as Shingles.
  4. Herpes is recurrent. The infection is triggered by UV rays (sunlight), fatigue, hormone imbalances (pregnancy, menopause and stress) and injury or infection to the genital area or mouth.
  5. Chickenpox is very contagious during the 7-21 day dormant period but is not contagious once symptoms show.
  6. Shingles is not very contagious.
  7. Herpes is very contagious during the dormant period and when symptoms are present.



Herpes Zoster (chickenpox or shingles)

Herpes Simplex Virus (oral herpes and genital herpes)

  • It is estimated that 4 million people and children contract Chickenpox in the US each year.
  • There are approximately 100 deaths and 14000 hospitalizations of adults (10 times higher than children) due to Chickenpox in America each year.
  • People over the age of 64 are seven times (over 1%) more likely to get Shingles than younger adults are (less than 0.5%).
  • Americans make just over 2 million doctors visits a year because of Shingles or its complications.
  • Approximately 20 percent of all Americans may be infected with Shingles during their lifetime.
  • Between 45 to 65 million people are currently infected with genital herpes in the US (more than 1 in 5 Americans) and millions more worldwide.
  • Herpes is more common in women (1 in 4 women are infected as opposed to 1 in 5 men) because male to female transmission is more efficient than from a female to a male.
  • Compared to 20 years ago Genital Herpes is now twice as common especially amongst adults between the ages of 20 and 30yrs.
  • Only 20 to 30 percent of patients suffering from herpes see a doctor.
  • 10% or less of those who test positive with herpes knew they were infected.


There are many treatments available for herpes, chickenpox and shingles.

  • Taking Vitamin C and Zinc helps to boost your immune system and fight infections.
  • A warm soothing bath for Chickenpox, Herpes and Shingles is good.
  • Applying Aloe Vera cream to an HSV affected areas and for chickenpox can ease the discomfort.
  • Taking Aspirin or Ibuprofen can relieve pain.
  • For HSV1 and HSV2 always keep the infected areas dry.
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