Epstein Barr And The Human Herpes Virus Family

The Epstein Barr virus is one of several viruses that are part of the human herpes virus group or herpesviridae.

There are at least 8 viruses in the herpes family, and having had one of them doesn't necessarily protect you from catching any of the others.  Read below and find out about the many strands and stages of the herpes virus and its relation to the Epstein Barr Virus.

HHV1: herpes simplex virus type 1

This is the one we all think of as cold sores.

HHV2: herpes simplex virus type 2

This is the one that causes genital herpes, and the one that we all think of as herpes. These two viruses are very interrelated and it is possible to catch either virus by kissing or having oral sex while either cold sores or genital herpes sores are present. The viruses lie dormant in the body and someone who is a carrier can infect others even if no symptoms are showing at the time.

HHV3: cytomegalovirus or CMV

This virus is primarily of concern for pregnant women as it is a virus that is transmitted to the unborn child. Children born with the CMV virus can have infections and serious complications, whereas children who acquire the illness after birth may not have any symptoms at all. It is important that people who work with children take precautions to avoid passing on the disease to pregnant women.

HHV4: varicella-zoster virus or VZV

This is the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles. Chicken pox is primarily a children's disease and although it's highly infectious and unpleasant it isn't generally considered dangerous. However, it can cause serious illness and complications in vulnerable individuals and there is now a vaccine available.

Older adults who are exposed to the VZV virus for the first time, or who suffer a reactivation of the virus for whatever reason, get shingles. It is contagious and causes inflammation of the nerves on one side of the body which is very painful.

It is therefore important that children and their grandparents stay away from each other when either of them has this virus, as the children can catch chicken pox and the adults can become ill with shingles.

HHV5: Epstein Barr virus or EBV

This is the strand of the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis otherwise known as mono or glandular fever.


There are two types of this virus:

Type A, which although relatively rare, is most likely to affect people with compromised immune systems, such as transplant patients or people with HIV.

Type B, on the other hand, is fairly common, especially in young children, and is called roseola or, more usually, measles. This illness can be prevented by having the child vaccinated with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) or the MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella & varicella) vaccine.


This strand of the virus is closely related to the HHV6 virus and may also cause measles.


This is the virus that causes Kaposi sarcoma, which manifests itself as purple lesions on the skin. It is fairly rare except in immune compromised individuals such as the elderly and people with HIV or AIDS.

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