A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published this week shows that rates of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) decreased over a sixteen year period.

Image/Ben Tillman
Image/Ben Tillman

Prevalence of both HSV-1 (cold sores) and HSV-2 (genital herpes) decreased from 1999–2000 to 2015–2016 (from 59.4% to 48.1%, and from 18.0% to 12.1%, respectively).

The report provides recent national estimates of HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody prevalence from the 2015–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) among persons aged 14–49 by age, sex, and race and Hispanic origin, and examines trends in prevalence by race and Hispanic origin from 1999–2000 to 2015–2016.

Other key finding include:

  • Prevalence of both HSV-1 and HSV-2 increased with age.
  • Prevalence of both HSV-1 and HSV-2 was higher among females than males.
  • Prevalence of HSV-1 was highest among Mexican American persons and lowest among non-Hispanic white persons. HSV-2 prevalence was highest among non-Hispanic black persons and lowest among non-Hispanic Asian persons.

Data for this report are from NHANES, a cross-sectional survey that uses a complex, multistage, probability design to select a sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. It consists of interviews in participants’ homes, followed by standardized physical examinations that include collection of various biological specimens.

Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) are common, lifelong infections, which often have no symptoms. People with symptoms may have painful blisters or sores at the site of infection. The viruses are transmitted through contact with an infected person’s lesion, mucosal surface, or genital or oral secretions.