The World Health Organization announced Friday that billions of people across the globe are living with herpes infections.

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According to the UN health agency, some 500,000,000 estimated people worldwide are living with genital herpes, and several billion have an oral herpes infection.

About 13% of the world’s population aged 15 to 49 years were living with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection in 2016, the latest year for which data is available.  HSV-2 is almost exclusively sexually transmitted, causing genital herpes. Infection can lead to recurring, often painful, genital sores in up to a third of people infected.

Around 67% of the world’s population aged 0 to 49 had herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection in 2016 – an estimated 3.7 billion people. Most of these infections were oral; however, between 122 million to 192 million people were estimated to have genital HSV-1 infection.

HSV-1 is mainly transmitted by oral to oral contact to cause oral herpes infection – sometimes leading to painful sores in or around the mouth, or cold sores. However, HSV-1 can also be transmitted to the genital area through oral sex, causing genital herpes.

The WHO also notes that people with HSV-2 infection are at least three times more likely to become infected with HIV, if exposed. Thus, HSV-2 likely plays a substantial role in the spread of HIV globally.

Women are more susceptible to both HSV-2 and HIV. Women living in the WHO Africa Region have the highest HSV-2 prevalence and exposure to HIV – putting them at greatest risk of HIV infection.