How does the prevalence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection vary by age?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019
  • Author: J Michael Klatte, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Beyond the neonatal period, most childhood herpes simplex virus infections are caused by HSV-1. The seroprevalence of HSV-1 antibodies increases with age, and its rate is 20% by age 5 years. Between the ages of 14-19 years, HSV-1 seroprevalence in the general population increases to 35%, [27]  and by 20-40 years of age 40-60% of individuals are likely to be seropositive for HSV-1. As a reflection of the association between infection and sexual activity, many HSV-2 infections occur around puberty and early adolescence, including gingivostomatitis from orogenital contact. A progressive increase in HSV-2 infections occurs in all populations beginning in adolescence. [45] In the United States, HSV-2 seroprevalence increases from approximately 20-30% in those aged 15-29 years to 35-60% in those aged 60 years. Most neonatal infections are caused by HSV-2, but increasing proportions are being caused by HSV-1. [19, 46]

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