CONTACT: Missy Gough (847) 330-0101, ext. 384 [email protected]
Karen Klickmann (847) 330-0101, ext. 341 [email protected]
GENITAL HERPES: AMERICA'S HIDDEN EPIDEMIC
NEW YORK, NY (October 28, 1998) - While syphilis is on the verge of extinction, viral sexually transmitted diseases continue to thrive and prosper in this country. A recent medical report declared that sexually transmitted diseases are a hidden epidemic in America. Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's Derm Update '98, Karl R. Beutner, MD, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology and Pathology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, discussed this growing epidemic. "There is a general lack of understanding about the natural history of genital herpes and an individual's risks of acquiring infection," Dr. Beutner said. It is estimated that between 20 percent to 25 percent of Americans are infected with the virus that causes genital herpes. Of those, one in four have had recognized outbreaks. Individuals infected with herpes can have three potential outcomes of their infection: (1) They can develop a severe first-ever outbreak of genital herpes within a week or two of acquiring the infection. This is the least common outcome. (2) The second least common outcome is that they develop their initial outbreak months or years after they acquired the infection. (3) The most common outcome of infection from the virus that causes genital herpes is that the patients are episodically infectious but never have a recognized outbreak.
This distinction between recognized and unrecognized outbreaks is a new concept, which has developed over the past few years. Most, if not all, individuals infected by the herpes virus will have episodic, unrecognized outbreaks. During these outbreaks they shed the virus and are infectious. This presents a number of important implications. First, an individual who has had recognized genital herpes may often wonder who gave them this infection. Because the individual who was the source of the infection may never have had a recognized outbreak, it is virtually impossible to know the source of herpes infection. Also, many infected individuals have only unrecognized outbreaks, so the old strategy of avoiding sexual contact during outbreaks to prevent transmission is not valid. This forces those who know they have recognized outbreaks to disclose this to their sexual partners. A year ago there was great optimism that a vaccine would be on the horizon to prevent the transmission of genital herpes. Recent negative studies have dashed those hopes. The current hope of slowing the spread of genital herpes is antiviral therapy, as the medical world waits for the next generation of herpes vaccines. The medical community understands the benefits of antiviral therapy and its effectiveness in nearly eliminating recognized and unrecognized outbreaks. The major current question is "can antiviral therapy prevent transmission?" There is currently a national study underway to address this question. The American Academy of Dermatology is the largest medical society representing physicians who specialize in treating conditions of the skin, hair and nails.
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REFERENCE NOTE: Beutner, K.R., M.D., Ph.D.; et al.; Genital Herpes: A Patient Guide to Treatment, American Medical Association, 1997.
Beutner, K.R., M.D., Ph.D.; et al.; External Genital Warts Diagnosis and Treatment, American Medical Association, 1997.
Beutner, K.R., M.D., Ph.D.; et al.; Genital Herpes: A Clinician's Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment, Part I, American Medical Association, 1997.
Beutner, K.R., M.D., Ph.D.; et al.; Genital Herpes: A Clinician's Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment, Part II, American Medical Association, 1997.