Posted July 22, 2014 12:57 pm

Teens In The US More Vulnerable To Herpes

A new study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases has determined that U.S. teens are at a higher risk of contracting herpes due to a low immune response to the virus strain. Herpes, like all infectious diseases, is contagious and can evolve to fight against antibodies that are built as an immunity.

There are currently eight known strains of the herpes simples virus, but only two them are commonly known. HSV-1 is associated with oral sores. This is usually contracted in childhood by direct contact with an infected adult. HSV-2 is the strain that is generally found in the genital area and contracted sexually. Unfortunately, however, both strains are lifelong as there are no known cures for it. They do, however, go dormant and inactive, but the virus remains in the system.

According to the study, HSV-1 is the strain that is more predominant in herpes cases in industrial areas at this time. This is the strain that is more commonly found on the mouth as cold sores. Most kids over previous decades were exposed to HSV-1 at some point in early childhood and were able to build an immunity to it. Now, about 1 in 10 adolescents have been infected with this particular strain of the virus upon becoming sexually active because they'd never built the immunity in childhood. This is significantly more than just a decade ago, researchers say. The increase is worrisome because the vulnerability and infection could also increase the risk of neonatal herpes infections, which can cause long-term neurological damage if not treated properly.

Another recent study that correlated with the vulnerability study showed that almost 60% of genital herpes infections are caused by this HSV-1 strain, putting more and more people at greater risk of contracting the virus since it is so easily contracted through saliva, body fluids, and skin to skin contact when blisters are present. There are various explanations for this increase. Teens have become more interested in oral sex of late, which very easily transmits the virus from mouth to genitals. This percentage continues to rise, worrying not only parents, but pediatricians and clinicians as well. The Center for Disease Control also performed a study on HSV-1 prevalence in people aged 14 to 49 years, and found that over half of Americans (54%) are infected with this strain of the virus. These are only reported medical cases.

Why are children not as exposed to HSV-1? Researchers believe this is because of hygiene. Disinfectants may be preventing children from being exposed to the HSV-1 virus and this is inhibiting their ability to produce antibodies against it. At this point in time, there are no practical alternatives or ways to prevent this virus from continually spreading, aside from purposely giving children oral cold sores so they can build antibodies. Other than that, all that can be done is to teach the dangers of herpes to teens, as well as encourage abstinence and safe sex, even orally.

For more information about living life after a herpes infection, see this post: