WHO (World Health Organization) estimated that 417 million people aged 15-49 years have HSV-2 infection, which causes genital herpes. More than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the population – are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). The estimates reveal that over half a billion people worldwide between the ages of 15-49 years have genital infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Herpes simplex virus is categorized into 2 types: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are highly infectious and incurable. HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact and in most cases causes orolabial herpes or “cold sores” around the mouth. HSV-2 is almost entirely sexually transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, causing genital herpes.
The new estimates highlight, however, that HSV-1 is also an important cause of genital herpes and there is a crucial need for countries to improve data collection for both HSV types and sexually transmitted infections in general.