There are over 90 members in this family that harass everything from humans to fungi. They have probably been around for eons since they can be found everywhere, even isolated primitive tribes.
The word "herpes" comes from Greek and it means "to creep." The term has been used for thousands of years. There are basically two types of herpes that infect humans and are referred to as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 was first described by a Roman doctor named Herodotus around 100 A.D. He described it as a "herpetic eruptions which appear about the mouth at the crisis of simple fevrs." HSV-2 was publicly reported 1,600 years later by a Frenchman named Astruc. These two viruses are very closely related. Half their genetic codes are identical.
This disease affects about 30 million Americans. There is about 500,000 new cases each year.