Most people are surprised by how common genital herpes is. Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. Anyone can become infected by the herpes virus through physical contact and the exchange of body fluids with an infected person whether the infected individual is exhibiting the symptoms of herpes or not.
Genital herpes, or HSV-2, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Genital herpes is transmitted through direct physical contact and the exchange of bodily fluids. This can be from a simple kiss to oral sex or intercourse. Genital herpes is primarily spread through direct skin contact during sexual activity and presents as open sores or blisters around the genitals. It can also be spread to the mouth and throat through oral sex.
The latest statistics indicate that about one in five Americans are infected with genital herpes, approximately 25% of the female population, or one in four women, and 20% male, or one in five. That equates to more than fifty million Americans with the disease. However, a large portion of these people, roughly around 85%, are asymptomatic and not aware that they have the virus. Following are more detailed statistics regarding genital herpes:
• More prevalent in the African-American population than the white population affecting 39.2% of the overall population and 48% of African-American women
• The fastest growing population of affected people is white teenagers with one in four American teenagers having an STD
• It is estimated that between 50% and 75% of unmarried American women between the ages of 45 and 50 have genital herpes
• Over 536 million people are infected around the world
The likelihood of transmitting genital herpes to another person is highest when having sex during an outbreak or anytime a sore is present. However, even if someone is not experiencing an outbreak, there is up to a ten percent chance of transmitting the disease during sexual activity. A genital herpes transmission study conducted by Valtrex showed the following rates of transmission per year of regular sex:
• Partners avoiding sex during outbreaks: 4% chance of transmission from female to male and 8% male to female
• Partners using condoms or antiviral medication: 2% female to male and 4% male to female
• Partners using condoms and antiviral mediation: 1% female to male and 2% male to female
Although not all studies reflect exactly the same rates for infection and transmission, herpes, both oral and genital, is more common than most people think. While there is presently no cure for genital herpes, fortunately, the disease is highly manageable allowing people with it to lead long, healthy, sexually active lives.
You cannot know for certain if you have herpes or not simply by observing the symptoms. If you do have herpes, there are many types of treatments available to address the symptoms and help prevent the spread of the virus. If you think you might be infected, take control of your sexual health and get herpes tested by a licensed medical practitioner right away.