Herpetic Whitlow, which is also commonly known as finger herpes or hand herpes or digital herpes simplex, might seem to be just any other form of skin infection that infects the fingers of an individual. However, this condition is far more painful. It is a viral infection that occurs on a finger, fingers or around the nails. This cutaneous infection most commonly infects the index finger or the thumb of an individual and very rarely infects the toes or the nail cuticles. As the terminal phalanx of the finger gets affected, this condition is often intensely painful. Initially described by Adamson in 1909, the condition of Herpetic Whitlow was noted to be an occupational risk among health care workers and medical practitioners in 1959.
In simple terms, it is a lesion or whitlow on the infected finger or the thumb that is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus is primarily of two types HSV-1 and HSV-2. It has been observed that about 60% of people, both adults and children, are infected by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and the remaining 40% by the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2). The HSV-1 virus is usually contracted by health care workers, dental workers and other medical practitioners who are exposed to oral secretions of diseased people. In children, this virus tends to affect the fingers or thumbs of those kids who have the habit of finger-sucking or thumb-sucking. Adults in the age group of 20-30 get affected by the HSV virus due to physical contact with the HSV-2 infected genitals.
Just as any other skin related infections, the infections caused by the herpes simplex virus are very contagious. Herpetic Whitlow spreads by direct contact with the infected skin lesions. HSV infection may appear as small blisters or sores around the mouth, nose, genitals or perhaps any part of the skin that was in direct physical contact with the infected lesion. HSV easily spreads through skin-to-skin contact with a person who is already infected by the herpes simplex virus.
So, if you have a cut or a torn skin and you get in direct contact with the visible HSV blister on another person’s hand, the virus will easily spread and infect you. This is known as autoinoculation and in children and medical or health workers; the spread of this disease is mostly attributed to autoinoculation of HSV-1. In adults however, who are not into medical or health care, the spread of herpetic whitlow is mainly due to autoinoculation of HSV-2 virus.
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