Some recent media reports have questioned the accuracy of CDC’s latest report on national herpes prevalence (herpes simplex virus type 2, or HSV-2). HSV-2 is a lifelong and incurable infection that can cause recurrent and painful genital sores and can make those infected with the virus two-to-three times more likely to acquire HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The latest HSV-2 data – announced at CDC’s National STD Conference in Atlanta on March 9, 2010, and published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) – indicates that overall national HSV-2 prevalence remains high (16.2%) and that the disease continues to disproportionately burden African-Americans (39.2% prevalence), particularly black women (48.0% prevalence), who face a number of factors putting them at greater risk, including higher community prevalence and biological factors that put women of all races at greater risk for HSV-2 than men.
While these findings may be surprising to some – they are, in fact, an accurate representation of the prevalence of HSV-2 infection in these populations and are consistent with prior data on the scope of the problem. CDC stands firmly behind these statistics and the methodology used to develop them. The data come from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative survey that has been continuously conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics since the early 1960s. The survey is one of the most reliable sources of data on American health available today, providing representative data on dozens of major diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
This analysis provides data on the percentage of Americans who are infected with HSV-2, or genital herpes, based on the number of people who tested positive for HSV-2 antibodies. These antibodies are only present if an individual is infected with the virus. While not all infected individuals develop symptoms of HSV-2, they can pass this lifelong infection on to others without knowing it.
CDC published these data to ensure that the general public, along with those at highest risk, have the information they need to take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their partners and their children. This latest analysis emphasizes that we can’t afford to be complacent about this and other sexually transmitted infections. Any information that minimizes the severity of this public health challenge ultimately hinders efforts to prevent STDs in this country.
For more information about the recent HSV-2 prevalence data and prevention, please visithttp://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/hsv2pressrelease.html or http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm.
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