A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.
Genital herpes is more common in women than in men, and the infection is more easily transmitted from men to women. The risk is highest among adolescents and young adults who are more likely to take risks with their sexual behavior.
The most important risk factor for genital herpes infection is the number of sexual partners in a person’s lifetime. Other factors that may increase your chance of genital herpes include:
For people with no or mild symptoms, genital herpes can't be seen, so you can't tell if someone has it. Since most people are unaware they are infected, genital herpes can get transmitted from person to person without their knowledge.
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Bradley H, Markowitz LE, Gibson T, McQuillan GM. Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2—United States, 1999-2010. J Infect Dis. 2014;209(3):325-333.
Genital herpes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114875/Genital-herpes. Updated August 22, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet (detailed). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm. Updated February 13, 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.
Roberts C. Genital herpes in young adults: changing sexual behaviours, epidemiology and management. Herpes. 2005;12(1):10-13.
Workowski KA, Berman S. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
6/14/2012 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114875/Genital-herpes: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Neonatal herpes simplex virus infection following Jewish ritual circumcisions that included direct orogenital suction—New York City, 2000-2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61:405-409.
Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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