The frequency of unrecognized type 2 herpes simplex virus infection among women. Implications for the control of genital herpes

Sex Transm Dis. 1990 Apr-Jun;17(2):90-4. doi: 10.1097/00007435-199004000-00009.


To evaluate the prevalence of symptomatic versus asymptomatic or unrecognized type 2 herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) infection, the authors performed physical examination, viral cultures, and type-specific serologic assays in 776 randomly selected women attending an STD clinic and 636 female university students. Forty-six percent of women attending the STD clinic compared with 8.8% of the university students had serologic evidence of HSV-2 infection. Clinical or historical evidence of genital herpes was present in only 34% of the HSV-2 seropositive women attending the STD clinic and in 29% of the HSV-2 seropositive women attending the university clinic. Among women attending the STD clinic, the prevalence of recognized genital infection was more common among those with HSV-2 antibodies only versus those with HSV-1 and -2 antibodies (odds ratio = 2.39; 95% confidence interval = 1.30-4.37), suggesting that HSV-1 infection reduces the likelihood of recognizing HSV-2 infection. In view of the high proportion of seropositive individuals with unrecognized HSV-2 infection in both high and low prevalence HSV-2 seropositive populations, newly developed HSV type-specific serologic methods should be evaluated for detecting carriers of HSV-2 infection and counseling these individuals about strategies for avoiding sexual and perinatal transmission of HSV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / prevention & control
  • Herpes Genitalis / transmission
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Simplexvirus / isolation & purification*
  • United States


  • Antibodies, Viral