Viral infections of the skin cause anything from a mild rash with itching to blisters or ulcers that cause pain. Herpes simplex viruses cause ulcers of the skin around the mouth and genital area. Herpangina is an infection with coxsackie virus group A. These viral infections are not curable and can be deadly to those with weakened immune systems.

Skin Viruses

Although resilient, the skin is susceptible to infection through its many glands, pores and hair follicles. Viruses manifest as skin rashes when they infect the skin. Rashes may take the form of simple redness and itching on the skin or pus-filled vesicles that are painful to touch. Herpes viruses and coxsackie viruses are two types of viruses that infect the skin.

Herpes Simplex 1

Herpes simplex 1 (HSV1) is a virus that primarily infects the skin of the face, particularly around the lips. It is the virus that causes "cold sores" or "fever blisters." HSV1 is very infectious, and it spreads through breaks in the skin or through the mucous membranes. After the sores disappear, the virus is still in the skin, causing recurrences of the blisters months or years after the initial infection. In advanced cases, the virus migrates via the nerves to other parts of the body. The virus may cause encephalitis or meningitis in people with weakened immune systems.

Herpes Simplex 2

Herpes simplex 2 (HSV2) is a different virus than HSV1, but the sores it causes are similar in size, shape and duration. The main difference is that HSV2 sores mostly occur in the genital area, which is why the virus is considered a sexually transmitted infection. Although the sores disappear, it is still possible to infect others even when the infected person is showing no symptoms. Antiviral medication can lessen the severity of outbreaks and sometime prevent the recurrence of sores.

Coxsackie Group A Virus

Herpangina (hand, foot, and mouth disease) is caused by the coxsackie group A virus. Infection with the virus manifests itself as a flulike illness with fever and sore throat. Small, liquid-filled ulcers in the mouth and throat are a main symptom of herpangina. Similar ulcers are found on the soles of the feet and on the hands.


To avoid infection with HSV1, HSV2 and coxsackie virus, avoid skin-to-skin contact with those infected—in the case of HSV1 and 2 even if the infected person is not showing signs of the infection. Infected people should warn their partners about their condition. In the case of HSV2, the use of condoms reduces the risk of infection. Those infected with coxsackie virus are infectious during the course of the disease and for several weeks afterward.

While there are no cures for these viral infections, treatments are available to prevent the recurrence of ulcers from the herpes simplex viruses. Treatment of infection with the coxsackie virus involves treating the symptoms until the infection subsides.