Late Breaking News
Genital Herpes Levels Found Stable in Most Recent Study
- Categorized in: April 2010
WASHINGTON, DC—Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, infecting about one in six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49, according to a national health survey released last month by CDC.
The findings, however, suggest that the prevalence of genital herpes has remained stable since CDC’s last national estimate (17% for 1999 to 2004). The new estimate, for 2005 to 2008, comes from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a national survey that assesses a broad range of health issues.
The study found that women and blacks were most likely to be infected. Genital herpes was nearly twice as high among women (20.9%) than men (11.5%), and was more than three times higher among blacks (39.2%) than whites (12.3%). The most affected group was black women, with a prevalence rate of 48%. “Young women, African-Americans, and gay and bisexual men are especially hard hit,” said Kevin Fenton, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
Fenton said that in addition to the human toll, genital herpes comes with a “hefty price tag,” costing the US health care system about $16 billion annually to treat. “Genital herpes is a common and serious health threat in this country.”
Genital herpes is an incurable infection. The CDC estimates that over 80% of those with genital herpes are unaware of their infection. Genital herpes can cause painful and recurrent genital sores. People can transmit the virus even when they have no visible sores or symptoms.
Research shows that those with herpes are two to three times more likely to acquire HIV. It is possible that the high rates of genital herpes among African-Americans are contributing to high rates of HIV in black communities, according to John Douglas, MD, director of the division of sexually transmitted diseases at CDC. “We can’t afford to be complacent about this infection. It is important that we promote steps to prevent the spread of genital herpes, not only because herpes is a life long and incurable infection, but also because of the linkage between herpes and HIV infections.”