Welp, you can kiss kissing goodbye. Turns out that if you don't have herpes, you are actually in the minority, according to an alarming new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In research published Wednesday, health officials estimate that more than 3.7 billion people under age 50 are infected with the incurable herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). That means two-thirds, or 67% of the world's population, has herpes -- nearly three times the population of China. Yikes.
There are two types of herpes, which are both incurable and highly infectious. Herpes simplex virus type 1 is the kind that causes "cold sores" around your mouth and can be spread via mouth-to-mouth contact, according to the WHO. The second type, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), is the one you were warned about in middle school Sex Ed -- commonly known as genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection.
Worse yet, the research shows that HSV-1 has become a significant cause of genital herpes, likely thanks to oral sex. In fact, as many as 140 million people -- mostly in the Americas, Europe, and Western Pacific -- are now infected with genital HSV-1. Earlier this year, the WHO estimated that more than 400 million people of the ages 15-49 have the HSV-2 infection, or genital herpes, which means that well over half a billion people have a genital infection between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
As of 2012, there were 178 million women (49%) and 142 million men (39%) 49 years old or younger infected with HSV-1 in the Americas. Additionally, the Americas saw 6 million new HSV-1 infections among women, and 5 million new HSV-1 infections among men that year alone. Those numbers were even higher in other parts of the world like Africa, where 17 million women and 18 million men became infected with HSV-1 in 2012, bringing the total to 350 million women (87%), 355 million men (87%), according to the WHO.
“Access to education and information on both types of herpes and sexually transmitted infections is critical to protect young people’s health before they become sexually active,” said Dr. Marleen Temmerman, Director of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, in a press release. "The new estimates highlight the crucial need for countries to improve data collection for both HSV types and sexually transmitted infections in general."
Obviously, this probably isn't the news you wanted to hear, but as they say, "the more you know..." Needless to say, be careful out there, folks.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and officially will not kiss you. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.