It appears the recent trend in the increasing prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 in the U.S. has been reversed, with a reported decrease in the number of people with the virus in recent years, according to a study in the August 23-30 issue of JAMA. The prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 also decreased, but the incidence of genital herpes caused by this virus may be increasing.
Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the cause of most genital herpes and is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections worldwide, according to background information in the article. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is typically transmitted during childhood via nonsexual contact. HSV-1 has emerged as a principle causative agent of genital herpes in some developed countries. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause infrequent but serious diseases such as blindness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and neonatal (the first four weeks after birth) infections.
Data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) during 1976-1980 (NHANES II) and 1988-1994 (NHANES III) indicated that the overall seroprevalence (the number of persons in a population who test positive for a specific disease based on blood serum specimens) of HSV-2 in the U.S. increased by 30 percent, while the overall HSV-1 seroprevalence was unchanged.
Fujie Xu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues examined national trends in HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence in the 1999-2004 survey compared with the 1988-1994 survey. The analyses included 11,508 persons from the 1999-2004 survey and 9,165 persons from the 1988-1994 survey who were age 14 to 49 years.
The researchers found that the overall age-adjusted HSV-2 seroprevalence was 17.0 percent in 1999-2004 and 21.0 percent in 1988-1994, a relative decrease of 19.0 percent between the 2 surveys. Decreases in HSV-2 seroprevalence were especially conc
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