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Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually Transmitted Diseases  >  Tracking the Hidden Epidemics 2000 (1999 data)
Tracking the Hidden Epidemics 2000


Genital herpes-herpes simplex virus type two (HSV-2)-is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, with as many as one million people in the United States becoming infected each year. While genital herpes continues to spread across all social, economic, racial and ethnic boundaries, prevalence of infection increased most dramatically in teens and young adults in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Fleming, 1997). The disease is potentially fatal in newborns and can be particularly severe in people with HIV infection.

Symptoms of herpes-recurrent painful ulcers-can be treated, but the infection cannot be cured. Most people with herpes have no symptoms and are unaware of their infection. In a national house-hold survey, less than 10 percent of people who tested positive with herpes knew they were infected (Fleming, 1997). With or without visible symptoms, the disease can be transmitted between sex partners, from mothers to newborns, and can increase a person's risk of becoming infected with HIV. Genital herpes can also make HIV-infected individuals more infectious and is believed to play a role in the heterosexual spread of HIV in the United States. Preventing the spread of herpes may help slow both epidemics.

  • More than one in five Americans-45 million people-are infected with genital herpes (Fleming, 1997).
  • From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, herpes prevalence increased 30 percent (Fleming, 1997).
  • Preliminary 1999 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggest that the prevalence of hsv-2 has remained relatively stable over the 1990s. In 1999, the estimated prevalence was 19 percent among the general U.S. population ages 14 to 49 years old (McQuillan, 2000).

A Closer Look at Herpes

Page last modified: April 6, 2001
Page last reviewed: April 6, 2001 Historical Document

Content Source: Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention