Herpes simplex virus (HSV) evolved an elegant strategy that enables the virus to impact a large fraction of the human population. The virus replicates at the portal of entry (mouth, genitals) and concurrently it is transported retrograde to sensory neurons. In sensory neurons it establishes a silent (latent) infection. A variety of stimuli can reactivate the virus. The reactivated virus is transmitted anterograde to a site at the portal of entry for transmission by physical contact between infected and uninfected tissues to other individuals. The central issue is how a virus that vigorously replicates and successfully blocks the innate immune defenses of the host at the portal of entry into the body remains silent in sensory neurons. The presentation focuses on three key issues: (a) current assessment of the impact of HSV on human health, (b) the mechanisms by which the virus overcomes a key host defense mechanism at the portal of entry into the body and yet is silenced in latently infected neurons, and (c) the mechanisms by which the virus reactivates. © Copyright ©2013 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.