The percentage of Americans infected with herpes is on the decline, reported a study released on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found the rate of infection for type two herpes (HSV-2) has dropped to 17 percent, or one in six Americans, from 21 percent in the previous study done from 1988 to 1994. This new survey studied from 1994 to 2004 and included more than 11,500 people.
The largest decrease in infection rates occurred in teenagers ages 14 to 19. According to the study’s author, Fujie Xu, of the Centers for Disease Control, this decrease may be attributed to “careful partner selection, condom use, and/or choosing oral sex over vaginal sex.”
Herpes is most common as a sexually transmitted disease, and while herpes is treatable, it is not curable. Two main types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) cause the symptoms of herpes: HSV-2, which is associated with genital herpes, and HSV-1, which is associated with mouth sores. Both are spread by skin-to-skin contact, though HSV-1 can be spread without sexual contact. Because of this, contraction of herpes is not fully prevented by condom use, though risk of infection is decreased by condom use, according sexualityandu.ca.