You Got Herpes? New Study Claims Just About Everyone Does


*Shocking headline, I know. But unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any less possible. According to a new report from the World Health Organization, more than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 — about 67 percent of the global population — are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).

Damn. That’s scary. And half of ’em probably don’t even know.

The Herpes simplex virus is highly contagious and there is still no cure. There is two different types of herpes. The aforementioned HSV-1 is of the mouth. People get blisters around their lips. They’ve been called “cold sores” or fever blisters and is said to primarily be transmitted by oral-to-oral contact.

“Most people contract the virus when they’re kids,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips said. “It usually lies dormant in the system. It’s incurable. You never get rid of it but it lies dormant most of the time. Every now and again people have outbreaks and that’s when you can see the blisters.”

According to Phillips, there is no one thing that causes an outbreak, because they vary per individual. But stress has been identified as a major trigger.

“For most people, when their immune system is under stress is when you start to see the blisters,” she said. “If they have an illness like the cold or flu — that’s actually how they ended up being called ‘cold sores’ — or if you’re just fatigued. Some people, if they get a lot of sun exposure, they’ll get an outbreak, or women during pregnancy or when they have their menstrual periods. Really anything when your immune system is under attack, these cold sores will come out.”

Then there is the kind most people know of: Genital Herpes aka herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). This virus comes almost entirely from sexual skin-to-skin contact. But the WHO’s findings, which were published Thursday in the journal PLOS ONE, highlight that HSV-1 is also an important cause of genital herpes.

“It’s important to point out that both types of herpes can cause sores in both areas, but the World Health Organization in this report, they did emphasize that there is an increase in the number of genital herpes actually now caused by type 1,” Phillips said.

This is particularly scary because they say HSV-2 can lead to more complex health issues, including swelling in the brain and increased risk of spreading HIV.

How does HIV come into the picture?

Experts say greater education in how the virus is spread is key, as a result of these increased numbers.

“Access to education and information on both types of herpes and sexually transmitted infections is critical to protect young people’s health before they become sexually active,” Dr. Marleen Temmerman, Director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said in a statement.

Better safe than sorry people. This is something you should definitely want to know. If you are carrying the virus, it doesn’t have to mean an end-all-to end-all. You just have to be educated and practice safe-sex (which you should be practicing anyway).

Go get yourself checked out. Please.

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