HSV-1 Infection Linked with Young Age at First Intercourse, Study Says
People who become sexual active as teenagers are more likely than those who become sexually active later to contract herpes simplex type 1, according to a British study published in a recent issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, Reuters Health reports. Although, HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, can infect the genital areas, it typically causes fever blisters on the face and mouth and is a different virus than HSV-2, also known as genital herpes. HSV-1, which is usually inactive but can cause "outbreaks" of symptoms in some people, can be transmitted through sexual contact or social contact, such as hand holding or sharing utensils. Dr. Frances Cowan of the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London and colleagues surveyed 869 people attending a genitourinary clinic and 1,494 blood donors on their sexual histories and tested them for HSV-1. Approximately 60% of those attending the clinic tested positive for HSV-1 antibodies, and 46% of those donating blood had the antibodies. Among those visiting the clinic, those who first had sex at age 20 were more than 60% less likely to test positive for HSV-1 than those who had had first intercourse at age 15. Among the blood donors, those who first had sex at age 20 were 36% less likely to have HSV-1. After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that age at first intercourse was the "strongest predictor of [HSV-1] infection," adding that the association between first sexual intercourse and HSV-1 infection was "striking and may reflect the particular sexual practices of people initiating sex in this age group" (Reuters Health, 10/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.