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Ear to the Ground

Herpes Is Common Among New Yorkers

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Posted on Jun 9, 2008
New York skyline
Flickr / acnatta

Twenty-six percent of adult New Yorkers are infected with the virus that causes genital herpes. That’s seven points above the national average. A new study by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that the disease is more common among women, African-Americans and gays.

While most people don’t show herpes symptoms, the disease can double a person’s chances of contracting HIV.


New York Department of Health (press release):

NEW YORK CITY - June 9, 2008 - The Health Department reported today that more than a fourth of adult New Yorkers are infected with Herpes Simplex Virus-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. HSV-2 is a lifelong sexually-transmitted infection that can cause painful genital sores in a minority of cases, but most people have no recognizable symptoms. The prevalence of the condition is also concerning because it facilitates the spread of HIV—doubling the risk that a person will contract HIV when exposed to it. HSV-2 can also be serious when transmitted to newborns, although these cases are rare.

The new study suggests that genital herpes is more common in New York City than nationally (26% of adults versus 19%). Among New Yorkers, the rate is higher among women than men (36% versus 19%), higher among blacks than whites (49% versus 14%), and higher among men who have sex with men than those who don’t (32% versus 18%). This is the first measurement of New York City’s infection rate, but the national rate has declined in recent years.

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By Hugo, June 10, 2008 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While NYC has an infection rate of 26%, the overall statistic for the whole country is around 19%, so it’s not much different than the rest of the country. Instead of one of four in NYC, it’s one of five overall.

The truth about herpes is that 90% of those infected don’t even know that they have it so it can’t be a very severe condition in the vast majority of those who have it.

The stigmatized visualization of people with herpes being a walking bio-hazard zone is totally misleading. Most people, obviously, don’t have sores and may only be contagious a few days out of the year and their virus isn’t something floating around in the air, it requires intimate contact. No you’re not going to get it from a toilet seat.

I hate it that it’s tied to HIV like this since the actual risk of getting HIV is very small unless you are in the very highest risk demographics.

If you’ve had sex with more than four people in your life so far, you’ve likely been exposed to genital herpes. Don’t be critical of others if you’ve not had a reliable blood test for it. Oh, and don’t say that you’ve had the standard STD panel and you’re clear, because testing for herpes isn’t part of that testing unless you specifically ask for it.

A few other thoughts..

1.Condoms? Yes, they reduce the risk, about 50% so they help, but aren’t a guarantee.

2.Cold sores are herpes, too, and many cases of genital herpes are actually the type 1 herpes simplex virus instead of type 2. Those cases aren’t covered by this testing being reported so those additional cases need to be added to the 26% statistic.

3. There’s much much more to know about herpes. There are a few good websites, if you can get past the sites that are peddling alternative treatment/cure scams. Google the “original herpes homepage”, for one.

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By reason, June 9, 2008 at 9:26 pm Link to this comment

Wow!
I know having herpes isn’t on of lifes great experiences but I would rather have herpes than to have had Rudi Gullianni for the mayor of my city! (I’m sure Rudi would have a different “spin” on this.) smile

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