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WHO: Herpes Affects Two Out Of Three People Worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that two-thirds of the world’s population is infected with the herpes virus. That means that about 3.7 billion people under 50 years of age have the incurable virus that is responsible for cold sores.

The report in the Public Library of Science journal PLos ONE states that herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV-1) can cause sores on the genitals as well as cold sores and is spread mostly through oral sex.

The research team wrote that there were about 140 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 with HSV-1 in 2012.

The global burden of HSV-1 infection is huge. An estimated 140 million people aged 15-49 years were calculated to have prevalent genital HSV-1 infection globally in 2012.

HSV-1 is usually spread through kissing and is often caught as a child. HSV-2 is known as genital herpes and is what people typically think of as causing sexually transmitted infections according to NBC News.

The spread of HSV-1 means there are now two different kinds of herpes viruses causing sexually transmitted infections.

Dr. Marleen Temmerman, director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, says that the new information shows the need for improved data collection for both types of herpes.

The new estimates highlight the crucial need for countries to improve data collection for both HSV types and sexually transmitted infections in general.

The Americas have the lowest herpes rates. WHO estimates that 49 percent of women and 39 percent of men are infected with HSV-1. That’s about 178 million women and 142 million men.

In Africa about 87 percent of people are infected and the infection rate is around 60 percent in Southeast Asia.

Both herpes viruses cause recurring, painful blisters that can spread even when someone doesn’t have any visible blisters at the time. Antiviral drugs can be used to control the virus but there is no way to cure the infection.

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