As you, or someone you know, begin to deal with the virus, you may be wondering what exactly is the history of herpes? Where did the virus come from and when did it become so prevalent? Here is a brief overview for you.
This goal of this article is to provide a basic genital herpes history. Don’t think of this as a textbook with all of the information you could want or need. Instead, it covers the basics of the virus’ progression through history and how it became so prevalent.
The history of herpes begins as early as ancient Greek times. Hippocrates speaks of the condition in his writings. Even the word “herpes” is a Greek word that means “to creep or crawl” which is the way that the Greeks described the way that skin lesions spread. In Roman times, the emperor Tiberius tried to stop an outbreak of mouth herpes by prohibiting kissing at public events and ceremonies. Soon after Tiberius, a physician named Celsus suggested that herpes be treated by cauterizing the sores with a hot iron. It is unknown how long Tiberius’ ban on kissing lasted or how long Celsus’ treatment was used, but both seem to have ended pretty quickly.
Later in history, Shakespeare is believed to have had knowledge of the virus. In his play Romeo and Juliet he talks about “blisters plagues” which scholars believe refers to the herpes virus. There are also medical journals from the seventeen and early eighteen hundreds that discuss this disease. During this time there was also a lot of speculation as to what caused herpes – one of the most notable was the suggestion that herpes was caused by insect bites. Obviously, the history of herpes contains a lot of misconceptions.
However, this information doesn’t really tell us when or where the history of herpes started. The origin of herpes in humans is unknown. Some scholars believe that it has been around since the beginning of the human race.
In more recent times, there started to be recognition of genital herpes history and the way that the virus spreads as early as the 1900s. Studies began to define various strains of the virus and in 1919 a man by the name of Lowenstein confirmed scientists’ suspicion that herpes was infectious.
Before this time, people were unsure that herpes was a virus – in fact, many considered it to be like other common skin conditions, such as eczema, which cannot be transmitted. Studies of herpes continued into the twentieth century and scientists were able to begin identifying various strains of the virus. Genital herpes history continues as scientists and physicians continue to study it and search for ways to minimize its’ effects and the chance of transmission.
What can we learn from this history of herpes? It certainly reveals that the disease is not just a modern phenomenon. It has been around for a while and unfortunately, unless a cure is found, it will continue to exist. In the meantime, we can be grateful that the medical minds of our age have a much better understanding of the condition and that they are working on ways to minimize the symptoms and hopefully one day eliminate the disease.
By Sheldon Miller
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