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HHV6 and HIV

Jan 27, 1998

I have read a little about HHV6 (Human Herpesvirus 6) and seem to find it a little confusing. I have read that many children aquire this as the "roseola virus" as a child and it goes away. I have also read there are 2 different strains, and HHV6 also has the possiblity as HIV to do damage to the immune system by itself and with co-infection with HIV to accelerate the rate in which a person develops AIDS. If an adult comes into contact with HHV6 what are the symptoms and how long could once expect to be "fighting" off this virus. Could being exposed to HHV6 mess up the HIV antibody test? Thanks for your time and sharing your extensive knowledge.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky


Thank you for your question. HHV-6 was discovered in 1986, and is actually two different viruses, HHV-6A, and HHV-6B. Over 95% of people older than 2 years of age are infected for either or both of these viruses, meaning these are extremely common infections. We do not yet know the specific route of transmission of these viruses. Most people who have these viruses have no symptoms at all. The HHV-6B virus causes the common childhood illness exanthem subitum (Roseola infantum or Sixth disease) and related febrile illnesses. In persons with fully functioning immune systems, these viruses will usually cause no symptoms at all (other than those mentioned above). However, these viruses may cause neurological symptoms and pneumonitis in persons with damaged or weakened immune systems. It is believed that having a damaged or weakened immune system may allow these viruses to reactivate, and begin causing illness. It has also been suggested that these viruses may play a role in Hodgkin's Disease, and other forms of cancer. In persons with damaged or weakened immune systems who are symptomatic for this infection, the use of ganciclovir and foscarnet has been suggested. For the vast majority of people, having this infection causes no symptoms at all.

Having this virus will not affect the accuracy of HIV testing. It has been suggested that HHV-6 may act as a co-factor to the progression of HIV going to full blown AIDS. For more information about this, please go to the posting, HHV6(a) and HIV Pathogenesis

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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