Risk for Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1. The highest incidence of first infection occurs between 6 months and 3 years of age. The incidence in children varies among regions and countries, with the highest rates occurring in crowded and unsanitary regions. Studies suggest that by age 5 more than a third of children in low-income areas are infected compared to 20% of children in middle-income areas. However, by the time Americans of all economic backgrounds reach age 60, about 60 - 85% have become infected with HSV-1.
Risk for Genital Herpes
Although the prevalence of genital herpes is declining in the United States, it still remains high. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about16% of Americans age 14 - 49 years, about 1 in 6 teenagers and adults, are infected with HSV-2. While HSV-2 remains the main cause of genital herpes, in recent years the percentage of cases of genital herpes caused by HSV-1 has significantly increased because of oral-genital sex. Except for people in monogamous relationships with uninfected partners, everyone who is sexually active is at risk for genital herpes.
Risk factors for genital herpes include a history of a prior sexually transmitted disease, early age for first sexual intercourse, a high number of sexual partners, and poor socioeconomic status. Women are more susceptible to HSV-2 infection because herpes is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men. About 1 in 5 women, compared to 1 in 9 men, have genital herpes. African-American women are at particularly high risk
Review Date: 11/05/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.