The Epidemiology of Genital Herpes Simplex Infection

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Epidemiologic Reviews





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Herpes simplex virus infection of the human genital tract is a sexually transmitted disease which in the past 25 years has received a great deal of careful scientific study (1). These studies have resulted in major advances in the understanding of the microbiology of the causative organisms, the methods of diagnosis, the clinical course of disease, and the complexities of treatment. The discoveries in the late 1960s that two types of herpes simplex virus infected humans, and that type 1 caused the majority of oral infections and type 2 the majority of genital infections (2, 3), were landmarks that catalyzed subsequent epidemiologic studies and confirmed the belief that genital herpes was a sexually transmitted disease. We still lack a comprehensive understanding of the epidemiology of this unique infection, however. A troublesome aspect of the epidemiology is that a major proportion of genital herpes infection is asymptomatic, and the methods for detecting asymptomatic, infected persons are insensitive. Therefore, it is often difficult to identify the source and spread of infection. It is not surprising, therefore, that few population-based studies have reported the incidence and prevalence of genital herpes or the risk factors for its acquisition and transmission. Our purpose is to review what is known about the epidemiology of genital herpes, to outline some of the major areas in which we lack basic information, and to stimulate interest in the design and execution of epidemiologic studies which will address the areas of our greatest ignorance.


Epidemiology; Herpes genitalis; Herpes simplex virus


Diagnosis | Epidemiology | Female Urogenital Diseases and Pregnancy Complications | Male Urogenital Diseases | Public Health | Virus Diseases




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