Billions worldwide living with herpes

12 May 2020

Article: 54/1904

A new study authored by the University of Bristol, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, estimates the global infection prevalence and incidence of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in 2016, the latest year for which data is available.

The study found that around 67% of the world’s population, aged from zero to 49 years-old, had HSV-1 infection in 2016, which equated to an estimated 3.7 billion people. Most of these infections were oral, with between 122 million to 192 million people estimated to have genital HSV-1 infection. The research also observed that 13% of the world’s population aged between 15 to 49 years-old were living with HSV-2 infection in 2016.

There is no cure for herpes, and while some antiviral medications can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms, they cannot cure the infection. The findings of this study promote better awareness, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms as actions that are needed globally. These measures are suggested in addition to the development of better treatment and prevention interventions, particularly HSV vaccines, to promote and protect people’s health and well-being. 

Source: WHO, 1 May 2020