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Eyesight: getting a ‘gritty feeling’ could be a ‘serious’ eye condition – do not ignore

A story in the Daily Express on 2nd August 2022 described how a facial infection can reactivate in the eye. This ocular herpes needs to be treated.

“Ocular herpes usually occurs when a previous infection with the virus reactivates and spreads to the eye. Most people will catch the herpes simplex virus as children, but will not notice it as there are often no symptoms.”

“Common symptoms of herpes simplex keratitis include redness around the front of the eye, pain, aching or a gritty feeling as well as sensitivity to bright light.”

Both of these quotes are true. And the warning that if you feel this sort of eye problem, and you have had a cold sore in the past, it is important to mention the cold sore to the ophthalmologist.

The article however failed to mention one very useful fact.

Herpes infection will affect one eye only.

Just like a cold sore on the face, or anywhere else, the infection will appear on one side only. This is because it is happening when a recurrence of a facial cold sore uses a different nerve within the affected dermatome. The herpes simplex virus reactivates and appears in one eye only.

Any problem with both eyes will have a different cause.

Cold sores in the eye, ocular herpes, are treated with a special antiviral eye ointment. Antiviral pills – and sometimes other medications – may also be prescribed. This depends on how bad the infection is.

Obviously, as with any herpes simplex recurrence, the sooner treatment is started, the better. So:

A person who has had cold sores, and gets one sore eye, needs to get it looked at in case it is ocular herpes.

More information about ocular herpes on NHS Choices

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What You Get in the Summer Magazine

Summer 2022 – Sphere magazine (16 pages in A4 print version, and the e-version is large text single column for easy reading on your phone.)

Subscribe to have it sent to you by post or by email

Each magazine has pages of research and new facts about herpes simplex treatments and herpes vaccines. In this magazine:

Dr Bret Palmer explains a potential treatment for herpes simplex (with link to his video).

We can all get free antiviral prescriptions.

Marian attends BASHH: the sexual health doctors’ 3 day conference and gives a 10 minute talk in the great hall. The latest from these expert doctors.

Shingles stories following Justin Bieber’s Ramsay Hunt!

The craziest story from the USA ever…

What are the support groups for?

Latest from the RVx vaccine people and lots more!

Get it sent to you by post or by email

Continue reading What You Get in the Summer Magazine

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Trial volunteers [TRIAL NOW CLOSED]

Last year, our trial volunteers took part in a scientifically run placebo-controlled, double-blind trial to see if the ‘EBDT powders’ from Vimuneco would improve their immune response so that they stopped getting outbreaks. The trial showed it had a minor effect, but the powders were very hard to use: they had to be absorbed under the tongue.

New trial

The company has reformulated the treatment as a liquid and there are still some places still available on the trial, so you can take part. You won’t know if you are using the placebo or the ‘real thing’ during the trial. But you won’t miss out as afterwards you will be offered the ‘real thing.’Vimuneco's tree

Send an email to [email protected] if you would like to take part.

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Media Release

In response to the following news story:

“Mothers should not be alarmed by these tragic rare cases – a repeat is now unlikely”

says Herpes Viruses Association

You can download this media release as a PDF

For a woman to be infected with herpes simplex during a Caesarean-section is one of the rarest possible medical accidents. For it to happen twice in the same geographical area required a unique set of circumstances that are unlikely to be repeated. Lessons have been learned and treatment guidelines will be updated to prevent another similar tragedy.

The Herpes Viruses Association was shocked to hear that two women died from internal herpes simplex infections following disease transmission via C-section. We extend our condolences to the families affected.

Herpes is common – for most it is a minor skin condition

Herpes simplex (HSV) infections are common and in almost every case are caught during direct skin on skin contact with the affected area, with friction, when the virus is active. It is almost unheard of for these viruses to be caught during any kind of medical procedure and strict protocols are adopted to prevent this.

Herpes simplex is universal. More than two thirds of the world’s population carry the most common type, known as HSV-1[1] which places it close behind chickenpox as an almost universally acquired virus in humans. The other type is HSV-2.[2] Either type may be caught facially (cold sores) or genitally (genital herpes). It is also possible for either type to infect the hand or finger. This is called a herpetic whitlow and is seen less often than infection in other parts of the body.

More than half of pregnant women will have come into contact with HSV-1 before
conceiving. Their babies, from month 7 onwards, will acquire all their mothers’ antibodies which will protect them during birth and for several months.

If a herpes simplex infection is suspected in either a mother or her baby, prompt use of antiviral treatment should ensure a positive outcome.

In the tragic cases in Margate and Ashford, Kent, neither woman had a prior HSV-1 infection and therefore neither of them had herpes simplex antibodies. This made them both vulnerable to the accidental internal acquisition that turned out to be fatal.

Why was a common cold sore infection fatal in these cases?

Herpes simplex is normally a virus that infects skin and nerve cells. Typical symptoms are painful skin blisters and sores that make diagnosis straightforward. These women were infected internally, so there were no observable symptoms, and the virus was able to spread without affecting the skin.

Without the telltale blisters on the skin, herpes simplex was not suspected, and the antiviral treatment was not given.

Future improvement to guidelines

The Herpes Viruses Association is pleased to learn that the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology is going to recommend treatment with antiviral medication for any ‘mysterious’ illness in mother or baby. This is a highly safe precaution and should prevent any similar tragedy in the future.

– ENDS –


The Herpes Viruses Association exists to promote better mental and physical health with regard to the family of herpes viruses.  Its aims are:

  1. To provide information to the public, to medical professionals and to the media.
  2. To encourage the development of new treatments for herpes simplex.
  3. To tackle stigma and the unnecessary trauma associated with the condition.
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Herpes medication and the COVID vaccines

We are getting a lot of calls about herpes medication and the COVID vaccines. (And see lower down for the Covid vaccine and a herpes simplex outbreak.)

Short answer: go ahead and get whichever jab you are offered

Longer answer… The developer of aciclovir was seeking a medication that would target flu and cold viruses. They found an antiviral based on Caribbean sea sponges. This new compound didn’t work on flu or cold virus. It was found to only work on three herpes viruses: herpes simplex (types 1 and 2) and varicella-zoster virus (which causes chickenpox virus and shingles).

Since aciclovir and the later drugs valaciclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir) only target these herpes viruses, it is OK to have the herpes medication and COVID vaccines at the same time. You don’t need to tell the people at the vaccine centre that you are taking antivirals.

Since these drugs only target the three herpes viruses and don’t affect human cells you don’t need to mention antiviral drugs at all. They are very safe drugs. They don’t interact with any other drugs,

This article explains the vaccine – and how / why it works very well:

Summary: get the jab!

I have a herpes outbreak, can I have the vaccine?

Short answer: Yes you can.

Longer answer… A herpes simplex outbreak (a ‘cold sore’) is minor problem for the body to deal with. It can certainly manage to control the outbreak and deal with the new ‘flu vaccine’ that is the Covid vaccine.

It is generally said that being unwell is meant to be a trigger factor for an outbreak. This is where the names cold sores or fever blisters come from – people noticed they pop out when a person is unwell. Most interestingly we know of people who get a lot of outbreaks but no colds or flu, while people around them are getting these ‘normal’ illnesses.

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Can a person with herpes have the COVID vaccine?

It is perfectly safe. We recommend that people with herpes have the COVID vaccine – or any vaccines offered. Do the best for yourself, get yourself protected against COVID: a serious, life-threatening virus. The vaccines approved for use in UK do not contain egg or any other animal products. Like the antiviral drugs for herpes, all the vaccines are safe for any religious group.

“Having had herpes is not a contraindication for COVID vaccination. As most of the population have been infected with herpes type one or type 2 if there were any complication, we would have seen it by now. There is no scientific basis for thinking there would be any problem. Indeed, I had my first Covid jab yesterday. My past history of oral herpes type one (‘cold sores’) did not concern me. Professor Colm O’Mahony MD. FRCP. BSc. DipVen.

Because ‘everyone’ has herpes they can have the COVID vaccine.

Well over half the adult population has herpes simplex, though most don’t know it. The NHS wants everyone, regardless of whether or not they get cold sores on face, fingers or genitals to be vaccinated. Take advantage of these medical breakthroughs. They have been subjected to meticulously conducted clinical trials. Such clinical trials are essential to test the safety and effectiveness of experimental treatments and vaccines. (I’ve just received either a vaccine or a salt water injection. I’m taking part in a trial for Novovax.)

After a promising therapy is developed in a lab, it goes through three separate studies to ensure that it won’t cause any serious harm and will be of real medical benefit. Only if it passes all three stages is any new therapy evaluated by a group of independent experts. They assess if it’s safe and effective and can receive a licence for use in the general public. The Novovax vaccine is now on the verge of such approval.

Marian is taking part in a COVID vaccine trial

By the time I joined the trial, the study was already in its final ‘phase 3’ research involving over 15,203 volunteers recruited in record time. The participants were divided at random into two equal groups. Researchers made sure the composition of the groups was comparable in terms of age, gender, race and underlying health conditions. One group received the experimental vaccine and the other a placebo. (A dummy therapy, in this case salt water). Rates of side effects and COVID were then compared between the two groups. At the outset, the researchers set strict criteria to ensure that the new treatment really if safe and works. This is so that they couldn’t be accused of moving the goal posts if their study flings up some unexpected or unwelcome findings.

If you are a person with herpes have the COVID vaccine – where it is the one from Oxford/Astra Zenaca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or, when it is available, “my” Novovax vaccine!

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Telling doctors about herpes

Our patron, Professor Simon Barton, was asked to do a short talk telling doctors about genital herpes, for a conference in Bucharest. Or really, he was asked to record a short video for the IUSTI virtual conference (about 700 delegates in 46 countries). He invited Marian Nicholson, our director, and Ceri Evans, the senior health adviser from Hammersmith, to join him for this ‘lecture’. He took as the topic: how we support patients in UK. (Recording no longer available… Sorry! But we will have something new soon.)

Marian Ceri and Simon record a video for IUSTI


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Vitamin D may help to improve resistance to Covid-19. Might it also help to reduce herpes symptoms?

Helpline callers often ask whether any food or vitamin can help improve resistance to herpes simplex and prevent symptoms. Despite many claims, no ‘magic’ food or vitamin is guaranteed to do this.

Now people are asking what they should eat to make sure they don’t catch Covid-19. Or if they do catch it, how they can have a milder case. Medical experts (Covid Symptoms Study) are giving the same response as us: there is no single answer.

One coronavirus expert suggested a diet that includes a wide range of foods, with brightly coloured fruit and veg, or best of all aim for a ‘Mediterranean diet’.  This is also our advice on how to reduce herpes simplex outbreaks.

As you will have seen in the news, people with serious underlying health conditions are most at risk of having a bad case of Covid-19. It is difficult, if not impossible to make a long-term health problem disappear, so what can be done? 

As you may know, people with serious underlying health conditions are more at risk from Covid-19. What can be done? 

Medical reports suggest that people with low vitamin D levels may be harder hit with Covid-19, although experts are not agreed on how much it matters and why.

We have previously written about “Vitamin D for herpes” in SPHERE 34-1. Vitamin D can be a useful supplement for immune function and to reduce outbreaks.

Dark skin? Over 65? Vitamin D is the supplement for you

You get it naturally by sitting in the sun, (but not overdoing it). For people with light skins this means around 20 minutes’ exposure between 10 am and 3 pm in the summer months. At other times of the year the sun isn’t strong enough to help much. Darker skinned people will need greater sun exposure to benefit. 

The NHS has long been advising that, amongst others, people over 65 and those with darker skin should be taking supplements of vitamin D.  Our director, Marian Nicholson, has! She takes the recommended dose of 10 mcg (400 i.u.) of vitamin D to lessen the chance of an outbreak. And it does not just help with herpes simplex, she rarely gets a cold. If she does, it is gone in a day or so.

In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care recommends a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:

•    are not often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound

•    are in an institution like a care home

•    usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors

•    you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-       Caribbean or south Asian background.

So perhaps it is time you tried vitamin D too? 

bottle of vitamin D pills and other pills...

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Herpes and corona virus: antiviral medication – will it help people with Covid-19 (Coronavirus)? And are people with herpes more susceptible?

The short answer is no – herpes antiviral medication will not help with flu. (This a question that we have been asked lately – of course!)

There are millions of different viruses in the world. The antiviral drugs that work to suppress herpes viruses have no impact on any of the other viruses. And this includes those that cause colds, flu and Covid-19. The antiviral medication for herpes simplex works against herpes varicella – chickenpox, but that’s it.

For more about the origins of herpes antiviral medication go to:

Will taking antivirals make any difference to getting Covid-19?

Taking antiviral pills will make no difference to your immune response – the pills work only on the virus, not on human cells at all.

Susceptibility – should people with herpes worry more about Covid-19?

The short answer is no. (This is the other question that has come up a lot!)

At least two thirds of adults carry herpes simplex infections (facial cold sores and/or genital herpes) by age 25 – all over the world. Herpes simplex may cause symptoms in people when they are ill or stressed. But its effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people is minimal and having herpes is not likely to make any difference to people who catch Covid-19.

People with other pre-existing conditions may be seriously affected by Covid-19. More information here:   

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Help research into herpes viruses

Help research into herpes! Have you had a diagnosis of herpes simplex type 2 – but no outbreaks in the last two years? Or perhaps you have had a positive blood test for herpes simplex type 2?

A researcher at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital would like a sample of your blood.

A single “tiny tube” is all they need. They are comparing antibodies in people with type 2 who do, and who don’t, get outbreaks. This could be helpful in future vaccine research. It is hoped that a vaccine could be used to treat people with too many outbreaks in order to give a “functional cure”. (This means to “take away the symptoms“.)

Interested?  To help research: contact Dr Bret S. Palmer via e-mail at [email protected]  to find out more and how you can take part in the study. (IRAS Project ID: 260102)