Herpes Infects One in Six

Diseases and IllnessesHealthMinority GroupsSocial IssuesU.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionSexually Transmitted Diseases

Not-so-sexy news about genital herpes, one in six people has the virus according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.

"I think the estimation of one in six is probably an under estimation based on prior studies that have been done," said Dr. Natalie Vanek, an infectious diseases specialist with Legacy Community Health Services.

Young women, African Americans and gay men are some of the most likely infected, with black women hardest hit. According to the CDC study, nearly 50 percent of them have herpes.

"Having sex is the human condition. We all say I'm never going to do that again, but, it is the human condition and people are going to have sex," said Vanek.

The challenge, then, is to prevent the disease spread by dispelling myths to make people safer. The biggest myth is that herpes cannot be transmitted without symptoms.

"The most likely time that people pass or transmit the virus is right before an outbreak, so it's actually before they feel anything coming on," said Vanek.

Another myth is that condoms are will prevent herpes from spreading. While people should still use condoms, there's plenty of exposed skin to be infected.

"Diseases that are really skin to skin contact, [condoms] are not so affective. Herpes of course is one of those diseases. You can get herpetic lesions anywhere along the genital area.

One possible reason for the high herpes rate is a decreasing awareness of sexually transmitted diseases in the public eye.

"It's a fact that many of our state agencies have not had any increase in STD prevention funding since the early 90s," said Vanek.

According to doctors, aside from abstinence, the most effective way to prevent spreading herpes is to take daily medicine that suppresses the disease.

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