The Unknowing Spread of Herpes

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  • Who's fueling the herpes epidemic?? It may be young women who don't even know that they have the virus that causes genital herpes.  They may have no symptoms, they may not have been tested and they may be actively shedding the virus in their genital tracts.  They are basically infectious - and they don't know it.  The statistics are sobering.  Nationwide at least 45 million people 12 and older have genital herpes.  That's one out of five adolescents or adults.  It is typically caused by HSV2. 


    A recent study looked at 127 young women who entered the study when they were 14-18 and the study then followed them for 4-6 years.  Only 3 of the women had been diagnosed with herpes when the study began; the rest had never been examined.  Over the course of the observational study, about 25% of the women who first tested negative, subsequently became positive for HSV2.  of serious concern?  Two thirds of the women were actively shedding virus when they were tested - meaning they had active disease that could be spread - but most had NO symptoms - not even vaginal discharge or genital pain.  So had the women not joined the study - they might not know for years - or even ever - that they had HSV2.

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    In another study at University of Washington, that even ten years after being diagnosed with HSV2, adults continue to shed virus nearly 14% of days.  Again, many have no symptoms on these "active viral shedding days."  So it's not just enough to know you have disease - you need to realize that you can be shedding active virus and be totally in the dark.  Another very important finding - if you are on hormonal contraception, your risk for getting HSV2 can be higher.  That includes use of the pill, injectable Depo-Provera, NuvaRing and any other hormone related contraception.  More studies will be looking at those findings.


Published On: November 24, 2008