top of page
  • Shruti GOCHHWAL

Why Do 4.2 Billion People in The World Have Herpes?

Globally, almost four billion are living with oral herpes infection and almost half a billion people with genital herpes.

A new study by the World Health Organization estimates the global incidence of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) and infection prevalence.

Herpes is a skin infection that affects billions of people worldwide and can have far-reaching health consequences.

We need more commitment and investment to develop better prevention and treatment methods for this infection.

A new study by the World Health Organization estimates the global incidence of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) and infection prevalence.

Herpes is a skin infection that affects billions of people worldwide and can have far-reaching health consequences.

We need more commitment and investment to develop better prevention and treatment methods for this infection.

Incidence and Prevalence

HSV-2 or genital herpes is almost exclusively sexually transmitted, causing infection in the anal or genital area. In 2016, nearly 491.5 million people had HSV-2 infection, which is about 13.2 percent of the world’s population between 15 to 49 years.

HSV-1 or oral herpes is generally transmitted by oral contact to cause infection in or around the mouth. But, HSV-1 can also be transmitted to the genital area through oral-genital contact during oral sex, to cause HSV-2.

In 2016, nearly 3.7 billion people had HSV-1 infection, about 66.6 percent of the world’s population between 15 to 49 years. Most HSV-1 infections were oral. But, around 122 to 192 million people were estimated to have genital HSV-1 infection.

As herpes is a lifelong infection, estimated prevalence increased with age. HSV-2 prevalence was also higher among women and in the African region.

Social and Health Impacts

Most people living with herpes are unaware that they have the infection.

However, when the symptoms occur, oral herpes infection can cause cold sores or painful sores around the mouth.

Genital herpes infection can cause painful, recurring genital sores, known as genital ulcers.

herpes hiv cells

Caption: Perianal Herpes infection in a HIV patient. Credits: Flickr


Genital herpes causes small breaks and inflammation in the anal and genital skin, making it easier for HIV to cause infection. Further, people with both HSV-2 and HIV infection are more likely to spread HIV to others.

For people living with both HSV-2 and HIV, the symptoms of herpes can be more frequent and severe.

Women have higher biologic susceptibility to both HIV and HSV-2. Women living in Africa have the highest exposure to HIV and HSV-2 prevalence. This negatively impacts their health and well-being.

Neonatal herpes

Neonatal herpes can occur when an infant is exposed to genital HSV during delivery. This is a rare condition, globally occurring in nearly 10 out of every 1,00,000 births.

Neonatal herpes can cause long lasting neurologic disability or even death.

Neonatal HSV-2

Credits: Commons wikimedia


The risk is greatest when a mother is exposed to HSV infection for the first time in late pregnancy.

Women who have genital herpes before they become pregnant have very little risk of transmitting HSV to their infants.

Cure

Currently, there is no cure for herpes.

However, antiviral medications, such as famciclovir, acyclovir, and valacyclovir, can help to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.

Using condoms can reduce the risk of spreading herpes to a partner. During oral sex, dental dams can reduce the risk, as herpes can spread between a person’s mouth and their partner’s genitals.

An increase in awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, heightened HIV prevention efforts and improved access to antiviral medications for those with genital herpes symptoms are needed globally.

Also, the development of better prevention and treatment interventions is required.

A vaccine is required against herpes infection to protect the health and well-being of billions of people worldwide. It would also have a significant impact on slowing the spread of HIV.

#Herpes

0 views0 comments
bottom of page