How Common Is Herpes in The U.S.? Too Common

March 9th, 2011  |  Published in Herpes Fast Facts

Herpes continues to be a major concern throughout the United States, but how common is herpes? According to CDC data, there are over 50 million people infected with the herpes simplex virus. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1 or oral herpes) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2 or genital herpes). Recent reports indicate that approximately one out of six people aged 14-19 has genital herpes. Oral herpes is very common affecting about 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population. Since herpes is so prevalent, the question shouldn’t be “how common is herpes?” but rather “why is herpes so widespread?”

How Common is Herpes Simplex Virus 2 in Women?

Genital herpes is far more prevalent among women than men. The CDC reports that approximately 1 out of every 5 women aged 14 to 49 is infected with herpes simplex virus 2, as opposed to only 1 out of every 9 males affected in that same age group. Additionally, genital herpes transmission from an infected male to a female is more likely to occur than transmission from an infected female to her male partner.

How Common is Herpes Simplex Virus 2 in Men?

Though fewer U.S. males are infected with herpes than their female counterparts, the disease continues to impact men at full force. Herpes infection rates among men have not slowed down in recent years, and currently, the CDC estimates that approximately 11.5 percent of the male population is infected.

How Common is Herpes Simplex Virus 2 Among Teens and Young Adults?

According to 2009 CDC data, those most impacted by herpes infection are in the 14 to 29 year old age range. These statistics include both males and females.

What Does a Genital Herpes Outbreak Look Like?

It is a common assumption that all herpes outbreak and symptoms are characterized by classic, textbook symptoms. However, symptoms can vary from mild to severe making herpes difficult to diagnose without testing. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of those infected with genital herpes are unaware that they carry the virus.

A typical herpes outbreak can include red, painful genital sores, overall genital pain, and sometimes fever, flu-like symptoms, and swollen glands. While it’s true that a herpes outbreak will often be pronounced, painful, and evident within 2 to 4 weeks of infection, this is not by any means a guarantee. Sometimes, symptoms of herpes are so subtle they may not cause any concern mimicking benign conditions such as jock itch, razor burn, or a yeast infection. In some instances, some people infected with herpes won’t ever experience any symptoms.

How Common is Herpes Testing?

Herpes testing is not common enough. Though STD experts recommend annual screening for all sexually active individuals, those with multiple sexual partners must test more often. Additionally, anyone whose partner is a known carrier of the herpes simplex virus should undergo more frequent testing and use protection during sexual activity, even in the absence of herpes symptoms on the infected individual. Herpes testing can also determine whether an outbreak is caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2.

How Common is Herpes Transmission During Sexual Activity?

Herpes is one of the most easily communicable STDs, and often, the use of condoms is not enough to prevent infection. The herpes simplex virus is released from the sores produced during a herpes outbreak, thereby allowing for easy skin-to-skin transmission even without actual sexual penetration.

How Common is Herpes Transmission When Symptoms Aren’t Present?

Genital herpes can be passed from partner to partner even in the absence of herpes symptoms. An outbreak does not need to be present for transmission to occur.

How Common is Herpes Going to Be in the Future?

Only time will tell how the herpes simplex virus will continue to impact Americans on a whole. The key is to be vigilant about herpes symptoms, use condoms to reduce the risk of transmission, and seek regular testing. For those already infected, proper use of condoms and suppressive medication can curb the spread of disease.

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