Categories Herpes

How Many People Get Herpes Simplex?

herpes simplex

How many people get herpes simplex? Herpes simplex is one of the most common viral infections in humans. Blood studies in urban populations suggest that approximately 95 percent of adults have past infection with HSV.

As we get older the likelihood of being exposed increases and infection is virtually universal in human populations. In elderly people, the incidence of HSV antibody indicating the previous infection is almost 100 percent.

About Herpes Simplex

The herpes virus has been around for hundreds of years. However, it did not actually receive much attention until quite recently.

Then, in the 1980s, it suddenly became somewhat of a media star. Many people read about it for the first time in newspapers and magazine, where it was hyped as an epidemic. This sensationalism had a tremendous effect on the reported incidence of the virus.

Incidence of Oral herpes Simplex

statistics on herpesMost infections with HSV1 occur during childhood. Some people who get only a small cold sore don’t even realize they have the infection. This is because the symptoms are so mild.

It is obviously impossible to calculate the number of people with oral herpes simplex at any one time. Especially as most people will not even consult a doctor. Instead, they will wait for a cold sore to go away on its own. Others will seek the help of a pharmacist and over-the-counter medication. Often it is only when there are regular recurrent sores around the mouth that a person will seek help.

Estimates in 1984 show 98 million infected individuals at any one time. On this basis, it is thought that the number of infected individuals would probably run into the hundreds of millions.

Increase In Genital Herpes?

The majority of oral herpes infections occur in childhood. Whereas genital herpes, generally does not occur until the onset of sexual activity. During the 1980s the number of cases of genital herpes was thought to be increasing at a dramatic rate. However, there is no significant increase in the rate of infection with herpes simplex.

At this time reports in the media described the virus as a highly-contagious, and dangerous epidemic. However, many of these media reports are inaccurate.

To call the herpes simplex virus an epidemic is misleading. Why? Because we know that the herpes simplex virus is actually endemic, meaning it will always be around.

When the figures are examined more closely, it also appears they may not have actually presented the true picture. In fact, the hype itself may have played a part in the apparent increase of reported cases.

Record Attendance at Clinics

In response to the massive publicity that surrounded herpes simplex in the 1980s, record numbers of people attended clinics. It was almost as if a ‘new’ disease had been discovered. And, naturally, people were concerned that they might be infected. The published figures accounted for people who attended a genito-urinary clinic with symptoms of genital herpes.

Prior to this, many people may have had symptoms but did not recognize them as genital herpes. The widespread publicity was beneficial in that it encouraged more people to attend clinics where they could be diagnosed. Unfortunately, it also resulted in widespread misconceptions about the herpes virus.

Steady Numbers

After the peak in 1984, the number of cases of genital herpes started to drop over the next few years. In general, the numbers of new cases of genital herpes remain fairly steady.

Until recently, there were no accurate figures available in the US for numbers of people infected with genital herpes; estimates have ranged anywhere between 2 and 20 million. According to the US Center for Disease Control, there are between 300,000 and 500,000 new cases in the US per annum.

More recent investigations estimate that the annual incidence of genital herpes in the US is about 50 per 100,00 adults. It is thought that many more infected people remain undiagnosed because they do not recognize the symptoms of genital herpes.

Previously it had been possible only to estimate how many people had herpes simplex virus in general. On this basis, research now shows that 16 to 33 percent of Americans have antibodies to HSV2.

Who Gets Herpes Simplex and When?

Infection from oral herpes is more common in children. By the time we reach adulthood, most people already have antibodies to herpes simplex type 1. At one time it was thought that the rate of infection across populations differed according to socio-economic status. Crowded conditions and close personal contact were thought to be responsible for increased rates of infection.

However, other studies do not agree with this. American researchers investigating the levels of antibodies for HSV2 in women found that 17 percent of a group of 1,891 predominantly Hispanic women or lower socio-economic class tested seropositive for HSV2, compared to more than 30 percent of 360 women with upper-middle-class incomes.

Genital infections caused by HSV generally start once sexual activity has begun. Most people with their first signs of genital herpes are between the ages of 18 and 36, and the highest incidence among women occurs at 20 to 24 years of age, at which time it is estimated to affect 210 women per 100,000.

Herpes Simplex Risk Factors

Once the sexual activity has begun, the risk factors for genital herpes – such as having multiple partners or a partner who has had multiple partners, or starting sexual activity at an early age or are very much the same as for other sexually transmitted diseases.

However, it is possible for a person to have symptoms of genital herpes for the first time when he or she has been in a long-term monogamous relationship where neither partner has been unfaithful. It may be that such people have had the virus for some time but have not noticed it and then something triggers an obvious recurrence or through asymptomatic shedding the partner becomes infected. It is also possible to become infected with genital herpes through oral sex when the other person has a cold sore. Learn more about what are herpes |

About the author

Alexander Pommett is a dating and relationship expert who enjoys blogging. I’m the author, researcher, and publisher of this website. Coming in at over 100 posts, this is no longer the “little project” I had in mind when I first started.