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Genital Herpes Health Center

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CDC: Genital Herpes Rates Still High

Women, African-Americans Most at Risk, Report Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 9, 2010 -- One in six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes and close to one in two black women are infected, new figures from the CDC reveal.

Rates of infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) -- the sexually transmitted virus that causes most genital herpes -- have remained relatively stable over the last decade, following steep declines in infection rates in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

About 19 million people in the U.S. are infected with HSV-2, at a cost to the nation’s health care system of close to $16 billion a year.

Overall, 16% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 had genital herpes between 2005 and 2008, compared to 17% between 1999 and 2004.

The new estimates come from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is a nationally representative survey of U.S. households covering a wide range of health issues.

According to the latest findings:

  • Women and African-Americans were the most likely to be infected. HSV-2 prevalence was nearly twice as high among women (21%) as men (11%), and more than three times higher among African-Americans (39%) than whites (12%).
  • The infection rate among African-American women was 48%
  • The infection rate was roughly 4% among people who reported having just one sex partner ever, compared to almost 27% for those who reported 10 or more partners.
  • Nearly four out of five people who have genital herpes have not been diagnosed and may not know they have the infection.

Genital Herpes Raises HIV Risk

"This latest analysis emphasizes that we can’t afford to be complacent about this infection," John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, who directs the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a news conference Tuesday at the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

"It is important that we promote steps to prevent the spread of genital herpes, not only because herpes is a lifelong and incurable infection, but also because of the linkage between herpes and HIV infection."

Research shows that people with genital herpes are two to three times more likely to acquire HIV and they are also more likely to transmit HIV infection to others.

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