Does Herpes Ever Sleep?

6 12 2010

A Time Magazine cover story from August 2, 1982, described herpes as “Today’s Scarlet Letter.” Back then, both treatment and diagnostic testing for herpes were cumbersome and unreliable.

In the ’70s and ’80s, herpes support groups were established, helping to bring the infection out of the closet.

With the advent of Acyclovir and other antivirals, as well as the (mostly) suppressed painful outbreaks, the lives of many herpes sufferers were transformed. Yet gaps in both the understanding of the virus as well as treatment persist.

Between 1978 and 1990, the prevalence of genital herpes grew by 32%. Currently, estimates are that 1 in 4 American adults over the age of 12 have genital herpes, though most carriers are unaware they’re infected.

Until recently, it’s been accepted that the herpes virus sets up “permanent residence in the ganglia.”

In other words, the virus is believed to be an infection characterized by periodic recurrences followed by inactivity.

A recent study challenges this assumption, finding that the infection “may occur on both sides of the midline and in more ganglia than previously thought.” If these results hold up to further validation, it will show chronic herpes infection to be continuously active, rather than cyclical. A big difference which could change the lives of those infected and inspire new prevention methods.

Currently, the best way to prevent herpes remains sexual abstinence or a long term-monogamous relationship with a partner who’s been tested and is not HSV-2+.


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