To date, characterization of latently infected tissue with respect to the number of cells in the tissue harboring the viral genome and the number of viral genomes contained within individual latently infected cells has not been possible. This level of cellular quantification is a critical step in determining (i) viral or host cell factors which function in the establishment and maintenance of latency, (ii) the relationship between latency burden and reactivation, and (iii) the effectiveness of vaccines or antivirals in reducing or preventing the establishment of latent infections. Presented here is a novel approach for the quantitative analysis of nucleic acids within the individual cells comprising complex solid tissues. One unique feature is that the analysis reflects the nucleic acids within the individual cells as they were in the context of the intact tissue-hence the name CXA, for contextual analysis. Trigeminal ganglia latently infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV) were analyzed by CXA of viral DNA. Both the type and the number of cells harboring the viral genome as well as the number of viral genomes within the individual latently infected cells were determined. Here it is demonstrated that (i) the long-term repository of HSV-1 DNA in the ganglion is the neuron, (ii) the viral-genome copy number within individual latently infected neurons is variable, ranging over 3 orders of magnitude from <10 to >1,000, (iii) there is a direct correlation between increasing viral input titer and the number of neurons in which latency is established in the ganglion, (iv) increasing viral input titer results in more neurons with greater numbers of viral-genome copies, (v) treatment with acyclovir (ACV) during acute infection reduces the number of latently infected ganglionic neurons 20-fold, and (vi) ACV treatment results in uniformly low (<10)-copy-number latency. This report represents the first comprehensive quantification of HSV latency at the level of single cells. Beyond viral latency, CXA has the potential to advance many studies in which rare cellular events occur in the background of a complex solid tissue mass, including microbial pathogenesis, tumorigenesis, and analysis of gene transfer.