NOV 30, 2015 1:10 PM PST

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WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is abundant, contagious, and resilient. In fact, the virus is so hardy that it's survived for millions of years. Herpes 1 produces tell-tale cold sores on the lips, while Herpes 2 causes lesions in the genitals.

Estimates of Herpes incidence range from 60% to as high as 95% for adults worldwide. Why the high incidence? It turns out that you can contract, shed, and transmit the virus all without ever showing any symptoms. Many studies have shown that lack of active symptoms, like cold sores or genital lesions, is not a guarantee against infection, and that asymptomatic shedding is the key to such high incidence rate.

This probably means there's a high chance that you have the virus, even if you've never experienced any symptoms. Why isn't there a cure yet? Scientists haven't found a way to kill the virus during its dormant phase, meaning that there's always a fresh breed hiding out in our bodies. But while there are no cures yet, treatments exist to manage pain and quicken the healing period.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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