Friday, April 15, 2011

One in six adults in the U.S. has genital herpes, report says

One in six adults in the U.S. has genital herpes, making screening for the disease all the more important, say researchers.

One in six adults in the U.S. has genital herpes, making screening for the disease all the more important, say researchers.
Think you can't spread genital herpes just because you're not showing symptoms? Think again.

People who don't know they have the virus may be expelling it - or "shedding" it, putting their partners at risk, Reuters reports. 

One in six adults in the U.S. has genital herpes, making screening for the disease all the more important, say researchers. Genital herpes not only causes painful blisters but it can also raise your chances of contracting HIV/AIDS. 

"The people who are symptomatic are really the tip of the iceberg," study author Dr. Christine Johnston, of the University of Washington in Seattle, told Reuters Health. "We are not having any impact on the epidemic by ignoring it."

In Johnson's study, researchers followed 498 people who had antibodies in their blood against genital herpes - showing they'd all been infected, even though about one in six had never had any symptoms.

All of the participants swabbed their genital area every day for at least a month, regardless of whether or not they had herpes blisters, and gave the swabs to the researchers to analyze.

The swabs from people with symptoms contained virus 20% of the time, while those from symptom-free people did so 10% of the time.

Although it's unclear how much virus is needed to infect someone else, Johnston said, the amount of virus shed in the absence of sores was the same for people with and without symptoms.

So how do you deal with the risk of herpes? Doctors recommend condoms and frank conversations with your partner about keeping yourself from getting – or transmitting – herpes.

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