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How Many Americans Have Genital Herpes

Is Genital Herpes Always So Mild

Why Do So Many People Have Herpes?

Well, no, not always. Sometimes genital herpes can be painful or very uncomfortable so, I dont want to minimize it for those who suffer more severe symptoms. Herpes symptoms do not typically present this way, however.

When someone has a first outbreak of herpes, symptoms can be severe and may include fever, body aches, swollen glands, a discharge , burning with urination, a painful open sore, and so on. Primary, or first outbreaks, are the worst outbreaks and they tend to get milder over time. Fortunately, a severe first outbreak presentation is not the norm. Again, most people dont even recognize their first outbreak as herpes and dont see a doctor for a test.

For some, only one herpes outbreak is ever recognized. Others have outbreaks several times each year. People may have a handful of flare-ups over their lifetime. The frequency of herpes outbreaks is variable, but the first year of an infection can help us make a prediction about the future. When I talk with someone who has a lot of outbreaks in the first year, then that is someone who is more likely to continue to have regular outbreaks and may be a candidate for daily medication to reduce flare-ups. Those who have one infection and nothing else in that first year may go years or even decades before they have another outbreak.

Actually, it is entirely possible to only have one outbreak and never have another.

First And Subsequent Episodes

The first genital herpes outbreak will generally be worse than the ones that follow. During a first outbreak, the appearance of lesions will often be accompanied by:

Subsequent attacks tend to be shorter and less severe. They are often preceded by genital pain or shooting pain in the legs, hip, or buttocks several hours or days before the attack.

Over time, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease and become less severe.

How Does Herpes Simplex Spread

Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.

People may get HSV-1 through

  • Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
  • Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
  • If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.

People may get HSV-2 through

  • Oral sex with someone whos infected.
  • Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
  • Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
  • Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.

You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.

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Is There A Cure For Genital Herpes

Unfortunately, there is no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Because of this, its important to be aware of how to prevent, identify, and treat outbreaks. Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding the infection and the possible complications associated with the herpes simplex virus. Its important for anyone who is infected, or thinks that they may have been exposed to herpes, to take precautions. If there is a current outbreak , skin-to-skin contact should be avoided. This includes kissing and any unprotected sex, including oral sex. Anyone who is infected with herpes simplex, even without visible symptoms, can pass it to another person. Because of this, its important to take precautions during every sexual encounter.

Here are some of the ways that people can protect themselves from genital herpes.

  • Using a condom during sex helps protect against herpes and other STIs.
  • Make sure that both partners are tested for HSV and that the results of the tests are in before engaging in unprotected sex.
  • Currently, vaccines are being developed.

How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes


Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.

Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.

People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.

Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:

  • You notice any symptoms or
  • Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.

STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .

Recommended Reading: What Genital Herpes Feels Like

How Many People Have Herpes Worldwide

Globally, 67% of the population, or 3.7 billion people under age 50, have HSV-1. HSV-2 affects 13% of the same population, or 491 million people.

HSV-1 is most commonly passed non-sexually during childhood. People who are born female are more likely to be affected by HSV-2, since sexual transmission is more likely during vaginal sexual intercourse. The highest number of new herpes simplex infections occurs during adolescence.

How Many People In The Uk Have Herpes

Genital herpes is the most common ulcerative sexually transmitted infection in the UK. There’s a very good chance that you might have it without even noticing.

There are two types of the herpes simplex virus, which are known as:

  • HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which affects the skin around the mouth.
  • HSV-2 causes genital herpes, which affects the skin around the genital area

The rate of genital herpes diagnoses has increased gradually since 2007 in both females and males.

In 2019, there were 468,342 new STI diagnoses made at sexual health services. Of the most commonly diagnosed STIs, there were 34,570 diagnoses of genital herpes, accounting for 7% of all new diagnoses.

It is estimated that over two thirds of adults under the age of 50 carry the herpes simplex virus.

Also Check: How To Get Herpes Type 2

What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Valacyclovir Tablets

Kidney failure and nervous system problems are not common, but can be serious in some patients taking valacyclovir tablets. Nervous system problems include aggressive behavior, unsteady movement, shaky movements, confusion, speech problems, hallucinations , seizures and coma.

Kidney failure and nervous system problems have happened in patients who already have kidney disease and in elderly patients whose kidneys do not work well due to age. Always tell your healthcare provider if you have kidney problems before taking valacyclovir tablets.

Common side effects of valacyclovir tablets in adults include headache, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and dizziness. Side effects in HIV-infected adults include headache, tiredness and rash. These side effects usually are mild and do not cause patients to stop taking valacyclovir tablets.

Other less common side effects in adults include painful periods in women, joint pain, depression, low blood cell counts and changes in tests that measure how well the liver and kidneys work. The most common side effect seen in children < 18 years of age was headache.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you develop any side effects that concern you. These are not all the side effects of valacyclovir tablets. For more information ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Are Canker Sores The Same Thing As Herpes

Herpes Spreads, Even Without Symptoms

Cold sores and canker sores are often confused as the same thing, but theyre actually two distinct problems.

Herpes is a contagious virus spread from one person to another. Its an incurable condition that may present outbreaks of ulcers around the mouth or genitals from time to time. Herpes sores and ulcers are filled with pus and eventually burst and cause pain and discomfort until they heal.

Canker sores, on the other hand, are non-viral ulcers that form on the inside of the lips and cheeks. Experts estimate that 1 in 5 people are affected by recurrent canker sores. Unlike cold sores, canker sores resemble pink craters with a soft white border. Canker sores are usually minor, appearing a few times per year and lasting around one week.

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Recent Research On Genital Herpes Treatment And Prevention

Everyone states the primary preventive measure against genital herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence or at the very minimum the course of following safe sex practices.

One recent Canadian study tested polyurethane condoms that were coated with silver nanoparaticles and found positive results. The presence of the silver on the condoms inhibited HSV 1 and 2 and some other bacterial and fungal infections. The silver coating bonded with the polyurethane and was not washed away with water. This was reported in the International Journal of Nanomedicine.

Acknowledging that HSV-2 as an indicator of immune system deficiency suggests a connection with HIV . French researchers in Banqui, Africa tested the possibility that medication to treat genital herpes, among infected women, but possibly with no visible symptoms could be a step towards preventing HIV infections.

Recognizing that strains of HSV-2 are developing resistance to antiviral medications, other sources are being investigated to find alternative substances which can effectively treat HSV-2. A Korean study reported examining a range of marine plants and animals, such as algae, mollusks, sponges, echinoderms, etc., as possible sources for these chemicals.

You can easily see that genital herpes is a global concern. Seeking to prevent and treat it effectively has been a priority for several decades. Determining which approach to a preventive vaccine is an ongoing process in many countries.


Myth #: Herpes Is Not Harmful

Fact: Most of the time, herpes is mild. However, it can cause serious complications in some cases.

For example, having HSV-2 can make a person three times more likely to contract HIV.

Also, if an infant has exposure to herpes during delivery, they are at risk of neonatal herpes. This can cause brain damage or death. Research suggests that neonatal herpes affects

Both types of herpes are most contagious when a person has symptoms. However, herpes can still spread when no symptoms are present.

Genital herpes spreads through sexual contact. The likelihood of a person spreading it will depend on:

  • how often they have sex with another person
  • if and how often they use barrier method contraception
  • how long they have had herpes

Using barrier method contraception reduces the risk of spreading herpes to a sexual partner, but it cannot prevent it completely. Dental dams can reduce the risk of spread during oral sex, as herpes can pass between a persons mouth and their partners genitals.

Research shows that older herpes infections are less contagious than newer ones. In other words, if a person has had the virus for many years, they may be less likely to spread it than someone who has recently contracted it.

People can also get oral herpes through nonsexual contact with a person who has the virus. This contact may include kissing or sharing utensils or drinks.

Also Check: How To Make Herpes Not Contagious

Cdc Says Genital Herpes Is Still A ‘serious Health Threat’


  • Study: Up to 16 percent of U.S. population age 14 to 49 has herpes simplex 2 virus
  • Women and African-Americans have the highest rate of genital herpes infections
  • Herpes can be asymptomatic more than 80 percent of people with it don’t know they have it


— As much as 16 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes, according to a government study released Tuesday.

And sexually transmitted diseases of all varieties infect 19 million more Americans every year — a rate that costs the health care system some $16 billion annually, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found. The study was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the the National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The herpes simplex 2 virus — one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States — causes painful, recurring genital sores.

“This study serves as a stark reminder that herpes remains a common and serious health threat in the United States. Everyone should be aware of the symptoms, risk factors and steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of this lifelong and incurable infection,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

Large Number Of Genital Infections

Herpes one of the most common STD

In January, WHO estimated that 417 million people aged 15-49 years have HSV-2 infection, which causes genital herpes. Taken together, the estimates reveal that over half a billion people between the ages of 15-49 years have genital infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.

The new estimates highlight the crucial need for countries to improve data collection for both HSV types and sexually transmitted infections in general, says Dr Temmerman.

Given the lack of a permanent and curative treatment for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, WHO and partners are working to accelerate development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides, which will have a crucial role in preventing these infections in the future. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.

Read Also: How To Care For Herpes Outbreak

Should I Seek Medical Care

Herpes does not affect the ability to get pregnant, but in connection with childbirth, there is a small risk of transmitting herpes to the newborn child, who can then become very sick. The risk is greatest when you have herpes for the first time. It is important to consult with his doctor if you suspect that you have received a herpes outbreak during late pregnancy.

While it is very rare, you can get bacteria in the wounds that are formed when herpes blisters burst. In addition, an unusual complication can occur the first time you get herpes. You will have a mild meningitis, and then get severe headaches and stiff neck. In both cases, you should contact your healthcare provider.

You can read more about how to get tested for and if you have genital herpes here

Study Says 1 In 5 Americansinfected With Genital Herpes

An estimated 45 million Americans are infected with herpes simplex virus2 , reports a research team from Emory and the CDC in The New EnglandJournal of Medicine.

Fewer than 10 percent of those infected are aware they have the virus,which can be transmitted to sexual partners as well as newborns at delivery.Also known as genital herpes, HSV-2 is characterized by recurring, activephases of painful genital blisters. When ulcers are present, one is at higherrisk for contracting and transmitting human immunodeficiency virus .Neonates exposed during birth are at high risk for serious illness or death.

“Since the late 1970s, the prevalence of HSV-2 infection has increasedby 30 percent, and HSV-2 is now detectable in roughly one of five persons12 years of age or older nationwide,” wrote team members, includinglead author Michael St. Louis of the CDC and Andre Nahmias professor ofpediatric infectious diseases at the School of Medicine and of epidemiologyat the School of Public Health. “Improvements in the prevention ofHSV-2 infection are needed, particularly since genital ulcers may facilitatethe transmission of .”

Current study data came from information and serum samples gathered fromtwo National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys . Data fromNHANES II were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 28,000Americans between 1976-80, and NHANES III information was collected from40,000 Americans between 1988-94.

-Lorri Preston

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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Herpes Simplex

Preventing HSV-1

You can reduce your risk of contracting HSV-1 by avoiding physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. People can still spread HSV-1 when cold sores arent present, but its less likely.

If someone has an active HSV-1 infection, avoid:

  • Sharing utensils, cups, lip balms or other personal care products.
  • Touching the skin near their mouth.

Preventing HSV-2

If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:

  • Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
  • Get tested for STIs and complete any prescribed treatment.
  • Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
  • Use condoms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.

Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.

If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:

  • Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms. Condoms may not cover all sores, so you may still get the virus.
  • Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
  • Wait to have sex until scabs fall off active lesions.

How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes

How Common Is Herpes Really? | Report Card | RIOT

Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.

Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.

Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.

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