People are often surprised to learn how common genital herpes (HSV-2) is. And looking at the data, about 42 million Americans would be in for a more personal “surprise” if they got tested for it today. To what extent is herpes common? Read on for genital herpes statistics that may surprise you. Fortunately, herpes is highly manageable and people who get it can still have healthy love and sex lives, as the data also shows. These numbers focus mainly on United States genital herpes statistics. Please also keep in mind that these statistics only account for genital herpes caused by the HSV-2 strain!
How many people have genital herpes?
- About one out of five people in the United States has genital herpes.
- That’s more than 50 million people in the United States who have genital herpes.
- 85% of people with genital herpes don’t know they have it.
- That’s 42 million Americans who are unaware they have genital herpes.
- Genital herpes is the most prevalent viral STD.
Men vs. Women with genital herpes
- About 25% of women have genital herpes. That’s one in four.
- About 20% of men have genital herpes. That’s one in five.
Symptoms and Outbreaks
- A study showed that of infected women, 60% had never had any symptoms or outbreaks.¹
- The average number of outbreaks in those who have them is 4 or 5 outbreaks per year. However, some people only have one or two outbreaks and never experience one again.
- Asymptomatic carriers, those without outbreaks, can still spread herpes, though usually half as often as those who have symptoms.²
- The likelihood of passing genital herpes to a partner is highest during an outbreak (times when a sore is present).
- When a person is not experiencing an outbreak, there is a 4-10% chance of transmitting it. (Studies vary)
According to studies done by Valtrex, these are the rates of transmission per year of regular sex:
- If partners avoid sex during outbreaks: 4% chance transmission from female to male; 8% male to female
- If partners also use condoms or antiviral medication: 2% female to male; 4% per year male to female
- If partners also use condoms and antiviral medications: 1% female to male; 2% male to female
Herpes Statistics in Specific Populations
- Genital herpes affects more Black than White Americans: 39.2% of the overall Black population, with 48% of Black women affected.³
- The largest increasing population is white teenagers.⁴
- One in four American teenagers has an STD.
- 50-75% of unmarried American women between 45 and 50 have genital herpes.⁵
- Globally, an estimated 536 million people are infected.⁶
How Common is Herpes-1? Oral Herpes Statistics (HSV-1)
- 50-80% of Americans have oral herpes (HSV-1).
The big take-aways form these numbers are that:
1. Is herpes common? Herpes is more common than many might think, and a lot of people are unaware they are infected and may not even have symptoms to tip them off. Unfortunately, when clinicians give “standard” STD check-ups, they don’t include tests for HSV-1 or HSV-2, unless it is specifically requested. This only exacerbates herpes’ prevalence and the ignorance around it.
2. Many couples have a healthy sex life and still never transmit it to the uninfected partner. Taking precautions like avoiding sex during and around the time of an outbreak, using condoms and taking antiviral medication like Valocyclovir (Valtrex) or Acyclovir drastically reduces the likelihood of transmission. The statistics indicate that it’s possible to get your chances of transmitting HSV-2 down very low.
Note: Not all genital herpes statistics are consistent from study to study. Most say 25% of American women have the virus, and 20% of American males. Other studies show slightly lower numbers. The studies with slightly lower numbers refer to people from 14 to 49, while the higher number studies are based on all people over 12. This is the reason, at least to the best of my knowledge.
¹ (Source: http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/testing-asymptomatic-herpes) ² (Source: http://www.webmd.com/genital-herpes/news/20110412/genital-herpes-silent-spread) ³ (Source: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/03/10/genital.herpes/index.html) ⁴ (Source: http://www.globalherbalsupplies.com/herpes/stats.html) ⁵ (Source: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/15/135442942/even-without-symptoms-genital-herpes-can-spread) ⁶ (Source: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=896698)