Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Genital Herpes Health Center

Font Size

Who Is Affected By Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is one of the three most prevalent sexually transmitted infections in the United States and one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide.

  • 17% of adults in the United States are infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV-2).1
  • More women than men have genital herpes. Recent research estimates that more than 910,000 women are newly infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) each year.2
  • The greatest increase in genital herpes infection in the past decade has been among teenagers.
  • The risk for transmission from an infected mother to her newborn is highest (30% to 50%) for mothers who have a primary infection but who may not have apparent blisters or sores. If a pregnant woman has recurrent outbreaks, the risk of passing the virus to the baby is reduced to less than 1%.3


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 among persons aged 14-49 years-United States, 2005-2008. MMWR, 59(15): 456-459. Also available online:

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2004, reaffirmed 2006). Gynecologic herpes simplex virus infections. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 57. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 104(5): 1111-1117.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Genital HSV infections. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2010 (CDC Publication Vol. 59, No. RR-12), pp. 20-25. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available online:

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease
Last Revised December 21, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 21, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

STD Overview
BHC Healthy Sex Life
things your guy wish you knew slideshow
Sex Drive Killers 03
Genital Herpes Risks Quiz
Young couple holding hands
Hepatitis Prevent 10
Herpes Vaccine Study
Daughter Development Evaluator
HPV Vaccine Future
STD Facts Quiz
mother and daughter talking

WebMD Special Sections