How Many People In The Us Have Herpes
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both known to cause genital herpes. It is estimated that, in the United States, 47.8% of people aged 1449 have HSV-1, while 11.9% of Americans in the same age group have HSV-2 . Theoretically, this means that over 195 million people in the United States might have genital herpes. But we know the number must actually be somewhere lower than this. Not every herpes infection actually causes symptoms, and if it does, it isnt always in the genitals. Herpes can cause a latent infection, meaning the virus can lie dormant in your system without causing any symptoms. Because of this, not everybody who has herpes knows it even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 776,000 new cases of genital herpes in the US each year . And this means our estimations of how many people are infected could be way off.
How To Prevent Herpes Transmission
First things first: Theres no way to protect yourself from HSV-1 and HSV-2 thats 100% effective. Limiting sexual contact when someone is having a herpes outbreak is an important first step, which may reduce the risk of transmission. Although theres currently no cure, daily antiviral medication can be prescribed by a healthcare provider following a herpes diagnosis that helps manage and prevent outbreaks. Currently, herpes infections are treated with antivirals that are prescribed by a healthcare provider, such as acyclovir , valacyclovir , or famciclovir . Using condoms and dental dams can also help reduce the chances of transmission.
Getting yourself and your partner/s screened for herpes can be one way to help prevent the spread of the virus. Herpes isnt usually part of routine STI screening, so make sure you tell your healthcare provider that you are interested in being checked for herpes as well, which would require a blood test. Keep in mind, however, that blood test results may not be able to accurately detect a recent infection. Its also important to remember that it is possible to have an active, healthy, and safe sex life if you or a partner has herpes.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
You May Like: Can You Date With Herpes
Managing Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
If youre pregnant and you have genital herpes, you may be concerned about the risk of spreading the infection to your baby. Be reassured that the risk is extremely smallespecially if you have had herpes for some time. The following steps can help make the risk even smaller:
Remember, the odds are strongly in favor of your having a healthy baby.
There’s A Good Chance That You Have Herpes
If you catch chlamydia or gonorrhea, you can have it treated with antibiotics and it will go away. However, there is no cure for herpes. So once someone has it, she has it for life. Over an entire population, the cases just add up over time. This means that middle-aged adults have some shockingly high herpes rates. For example, 50 to 70 percent of single women aged 45 to 50 have herpes. , aka genital herpes. The other type is “oral herpes,” HSV-1, although both viruses can infect people in both, um, places.)
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Aids From Herpes
How Will You Know If You Have Hsv
In most cases, you wont know unless you develop blisters or sores on the mouth or genitals. These sores usually have a burning, tingling sensation.
If you think youve been exposed to HSV-2 or would like to know if you carry the virus, talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider about testing.
Yes, you can still have sex if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2.
However, you should avoid intimate contact if youre experiencing an active outbreak. This will reduce the risk for transmission to your partner.
For example, if you have a cold sore you should avoid kissing your partner or performing oral sex.
If you have an active genital outbreak, you should avoid any below-the-belt activity until it clears.
Although the virus is less likely to spread when no symptoms are present, practicing sex with a condom or another barrier method, such as a dental dam, can help reduce the overall risk for transmission.
You may also consider talking to your healthcare provider about prescription antiviral medication, such as:
These medications can help suppress the virus and reduce the risk of transmission.
In rare cases, herpes can be transmitted during pregnancy or childbirth. Reassurances about genital herpes during pregnancy and birth. . herpes.org.nz/patient-info/herpes-pregnancy/
If youre pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, talk to an obstetrician or other healthcare provider about the steps you can take to reduce the risk for transmission.
How Common Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimated that there were 572,000 new genital herpes infections in the United States in a single year.1 Nationwide, 11.9 % of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection .2 However, the prevalence of genital herpes infection is higher than that because an increasing number of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. 3 Oral HSV-1 infection is typically acquired in childhood because the prevalence of oral HSV-1 infection has declined in recent decades, people may have become more susceptible to contracting a genital herpes infection from HSV-1. 4
HSV-2 infection is more common among women than among men the percentages of those infected during 2015-2016 were 15.9% versus 8.2% respectively, among 14 to 49 year olds. 2 This is possibly because genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men during penile-vaginal sex. 5 HSV-2 infection is more common among non-Hispanic blacks than among non-Hispanic whites . 2 A previous analysis found that these disparities, exist even among persons with similar numbers of lifetime sexual partners. Most infected persons may be unaware of their infection in the United States, an estimated 87.4% of 14 to 49 year olds infected with HSV-2 have never received a clinical diagnosis. 6
The age-adjusted percentage of persons in the United States infected with HSV-2 decreased from 18.0% in 19992000 to 12.1% in 2015-2016. 2
Don’t Miss: How To Get Rid Of Oral Herpes
Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.11 In addition, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.11
There is currently no commercially available vaccine that is protective against genital herpes infection. Candidate vaccines are in clinical trials.
Study Finds Herpes Virus In 98 Percent Of Healthy Participants
- Louisiana State University Health Science Center
- A study led by Dr. Herbert Kaufman, Boyd Professor of Ophthalmology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, published in the January issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, found that 98% of the participants who are healthy individuals with no evidence of any symptoms did in fact shed herpes simplex virus type I DNA in their tears and saliva at least once during the course of the 30-day study.
A study led by Dr. Herbert Kaufman, Boyd Professor of Ophthalmology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, published in the January issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, found that 98% of the participants who are healthy individuals with no evidence of any symptoms did in fact shed herpes simplex virus type I DNA in their tears and saliva at least once during the course of the 30-day study. The study was undertaken to assess the frequency of shedding of HSV-1 DNA in tears and saliva of asymptomatic individuals.
While not the first, the researchers report that this study uses the most sensitive techniques in a cross-sectional assessment performed to date of the presence of HSV-1 DNA in the eyes and mouths of healthy individuals, in terms of population size and total samples collected.
Recommended Reading: Can The Emergency Room Test For Herpes
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
What Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 or type 2 .
Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 16.2 percent, or about one out of six, people aged 14 to 49 years have genital HSV-2 infection. Over the past decade, the percentage of persons with genital herpes infection in the United States has remained stable.
There are two types of HSV and both can cause the symptoms of genital herpes. HSV type 1 most commonly causes sores on the lips , but it can cause genital infections as well. HSV type 2 most often causes genital sores, but it also can infect the mouth. The virus remains in certain nerve cells of the body for life, causing periodic symptoms in some people. Many people who are infected with HSV never develop any symptoms.
Don’t Miss: How To Cure Genital Herpes Forever
The Overblown Stigma Of Genital Herpes
For many people living with this common disease, the most debilitating symptoms are shame and isolation.
Even after his friends hype him up, Jamin Peckham still backs out sometimes. Its not that hes shy or insecure about his looks. Instead, what keeps this 27-year-old from approaching the cute girl across the room is a set of hypotheticals that most people dont deal with.
My mind runs ahead to the disclosure talk and then all the way down to, What if we have sex and what if I give it to her? said Peckham, an IT professional who lives in Austin, Texas.
Peckham has had genital herpes for six years now and got it from an ex-girlfriend who didnt know she had it. He hasnt been in a relationship with any girls since his diagnosis, though hes been rejected by a few girls who asked to be friends after hearing about his condition. Due to this, Peckham said that he has to work harder than ever to secure a romantic relationship.
Some think of people like Peckham as immoral, assuming only people who sleep around get genital herpes. The stigma of the virus, which is the root of this faulty mindset, is usually worse than the symptoms themselves, as it affects dating, social life, and psychological health.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Get Oral Herpes
Are These The Only Herpes Viruses
There are actually several other subtypes of herpes viruses that are from the same family as HSV-1 and HSV-2. This family is known as Herpesviridae.
Alternatively, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are also known as human herpesvirus 1 and human herpesvirus 2 , respectively.
The other human herpesviruses include:
- Human herpesvirus 3 : Also known as the varicella zoster virus, this virus causes chickenpox lesions.
- Human herpesvirus 4 : Also known as the Epstein-Barr virus, this virus causes infectious mononucleosis.
- Human herpesvirus 5 : Also known as the cytomegalovirus, this virus causes symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches.
- Human herpesvirus 6 : This virus can cause a serious illness in infants known as sixth disease, which is also called roseola infantum. The virus causes a high fever and distinctive rash.
- Human herpesvirus 7 : This virus is similar to HHV-6 and can cause some cases of roseola.
- Human herpesvirus 8 : This virus can contribute to a serious illness known as Kaposi sarcoma, which can lead to connective tissue cancer.
Many of these subtypes are contracted in childhood.
Epidemiology Of Herpes Simplex
The epidemiology of herpes simplex is of substantial epidemiologic and public health interest. Worldwide, the rate of infection with herpes simplex viruscounting both HSV-1 and HSV-2is around 90%. Although many people infected with HSV develop labial or genital lesions , the majority are either undiagnosed or display no physical symptomsindividuals with no symptoms are described as asymptomatic or as having subclinical herpes.
In many infections, the first symptom a person will have of their own infection is the horizontal transmission to a sexual partner or the vertical transmission of neonatal herpes to a newborn at term. Since most asymptomatic individuals are unaware of their infection, they are considered at high risk for spreading HSV. Many studies have been performed around the world to estimate the numbers of individuals infected with HSV-1 and HSV-2 by determining if they have developed antibodies against either viral species.
This information provides population prevalence of HSV viral infections in individuals with or without active disease. Note that there are population subgroups that are morevulnerable for HSV infections, such as cancer chemotherapy patients.
|Seroprevalence estimates for HSV-1 and HSV-2
Don’t Miss: Does Herpes Make Your Immune System Weak
The Health Risks Of Genital Herpes
Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected. Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.
Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.
Myth #: Your Sex Life Is Over
While theres no cure, herpes treatment is simple and can shorten or prevent outbreaks, so you can still have a love life.
People have a disproportionate fear of herpes in relation to any other STI, Grimes says. They feel like their sex lives are ruined forever and thats in no way the case.
If you have the virus, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Zovirax or Valtrex to keep on hand in case of a flare-up. And if you experience outbreaks often, your provider may recommend daily dosing. However you treat it, its worth remembering that herpes is a condition to manage it doesnt define you.
If you have to be perfect for your new partner, that partner will be looking a very, very long time to find a match! Grimes says. Everyone has something, and since one in six Americans between 14-49 have HSV-2, odds are very high that your next partner is in the same boat. The main issue is to have productive conversations around these issues.
So theres no reason for all the stigma and secrecy surrounding herpes, since its safe to assume more people have it than you think. And if youre diagnosed with the virus, your provider will help you find a treatment plan thats easy, effective, and fit for your lifestyle.
Recommended Reading: Does Abreva Help With Genital Herpes