Herpes simplex viruses cause common mucocutaneous infections, but many aspects of their epidemiology and transmission are incompletely defined. Although the incidence of oral herpes remains relatively unchanged, the incidence of genital herpes is increasing significantly. Definitive diagnosis of herpes remains dependent on virus isolation, but techniques involving direct examination of clinical specimens are increasingly sensitive and may simplify and speed diagnosis. With the advent of acyclovir, effective therapy and suppression of infection are feasible for immunodeficient and selected normal patients. Unanswered questions remain regarding the long-term safety of acyclovir and the potential for emergence of clinically significant drug resistance. No effective vaccines are yet available for herpes virus infections. Promising strategies for vaccine development include preparation of immunogenic proteins, engineering of specially attenuated live virus strains, and incorporation of selected herpes genes into live vaccinia virus vectors.