COMBATING INFECTION: Getting the lowdown on herpetic whitlow

July 2004 
Volume 34  Number 7
Pages 17 - 17
  PDF Version Available!


  • How infection develops

  • Healing and prevention



    A PAINFUL, VESICULAR inflammation of the tip of the finger or toe, herpetic whitlow is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or 2. The condition develops when oral secretions or mucous membranes infected with HSV come in contact with a cutaneous break, such as an abrasion or torn cuticle. Health care workers, especially nurses and respiratory and anesthesiology staff, are particularly susceptible because of their hands-on contact with patients who may be infected.

    How infection develops

    After an incubation period of 2 to 14 days, the patient may experience prodromal symptoms, such as fever and malaise. Common initial symptoms of infection include tingling pain or tenderness in the affected digit, followed by throbbing pain, swelling, and redness. Vesicles, which form over the next week, contain ...

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