HSV- 1 was previously considered a mild version of herpes because it normally caused only orolabial herpes (mistaken for fever blisters in Nigeria) unlike HSV-2 which causes the dreaded genital herpes.
|Orolabial herpes or cold sores|
However, the new WHO estimates have revealed that HSV-1 is also an important cause of genital herpes, with 140 million people aged 15-49 years infected with genital HSV-1 infection.
Commonly, adults are infected with HSV-1 in childhood after "kissing" (oral-oral contact with) an adult that has HSV-1 or who has orolabial herpes or “cold sores” around the mouth.
In January, WHO estimated that 417 million people aged 15-49 years have HSV-2 infection, which causes genital herpes. Taken together, the estimates reveal that over half a billion people between the ages of 15-49 years have genital infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
A significant number of people have genital and orolabial herpes caused by HSV-1
HSV-2 is almost entirely sexually transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, causing genital herpes.
With HSV-1 and HSV-2 being highly infectious and incurable, WHO and partners are working to accelerate development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides, which will have a crucial role in preventing these infections in the future
Meanwhile, young people are encouraged to use condoms for protection from HSV-1 although abstinence is the only way to avoid being infected-- especially when your partner symptoms flare-up.