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Rates of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) dipped between 1999 and 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among those in the U.S. ages 14-49 the prevalence of HSV-2 in 2016 (all of those with HSV-2 in the age range being studied) was 12%, down from 18% in 1999. Approximately 1 in 8 individuals in this age group have HSV-2, which is almost always experienced as a genital infection. Most individuals with genital herpes are undiagnosed and not aware they have the virus.

HSV-1 prevalence also dropped during the same period, from 59% in 1999 to 48%. HSV-1 is typically experienced as an oral infection (cold sores) but research suggests HSV-1 is found with nearly half of all new genital herpes infections.

The data were collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and reported in Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Ages 14-49: United States, 2015-2016 (McQuillan et al). NHANES is a series of continuing studies assessing the health of adults and children in the U.S.

For more on HSV including testing and prevention visit ASHA’s Herpes Resource Center.

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