The Centers for Disease Control have released results from a new survey that indicate roughly 1 in 6 Americans between 14 and 49 have genital herpes. The study also found that young women (21%), African Americans (39%), and gay and bisexual men have a higher prevalence. Another health risk is the number of sexual partners. Those with 10 or more partners have a prevalence of 27%, compared to the 4% of those with only one partner. Based on 2007 data from JHU's Student Health and Wellness Center, 10 cases of genital herpes (18%) were diagnosed of those students that came in for STI testing.
What's more shocking is that of those Americans with genital herpes (HSV-2), 80% of them don't even know that they are infected with this chronic disease. This is in large part due to the lack of symptoms that many experience. While most people associate herpes with itchy, painful blisters and sores around the genital region, many people have very mild or no symptoms at all. Despite a lack of symptoms, it is still possible to transmit genital herpes to other sexual partners.
While there is no vaccine or cure for genital herpes, it is possible to protect yourself. Since herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact, the best method is to avoid any genital contact. This includes outer touching, not just sexual intercourse. If you do 'bump uglies', be sure to use a condom or dental dam every time to lower- but not eliminate- your risk. Be conscious of your number of sexual partners, and ask any potential partners if they have been tested. If you fear you may have genital herpes, or any other STI, testing is available through the Student Health and Wellness Center. Simply call 410-516-8270 for an appointment.
To learn more, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/Newsroom/hsv2pressrelease.html