Be Very Afraid If You Don’t Have Time To Read This
Herpes infections frequent in adolescent girls
Almost 60 percent over age 14 tested positive for infection, study shows
Sixty percent! Almost six out of every ten girls above age 14 have herpes? Holy freaking God, as a (soft-core) libertarian I’m not usually one to call for government intervention but sixty percent of a generation with an incurable sexually transmitted disease is a public-health catastrophe and somebody has to do something and — wait a minute. Here’s what the article says next:
Infections with the virus that causes genital herpes are common among teen girls, a new study shows.
While none of the young women in the study had oral or genital herpes symptoms, some of those who tested positive for the virus were shedding it in their vaginal area, meaning it would be possible for them to transmit the infection to others, Dr. Kenneth H. Fife of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and colleagues report.
“It was something that we sort of expected to find based on the incidence of other sexually transmitted infections in this population,” Fife told Reuters Health in an interview.
“In this population.” Okay, so it’s not sixty percent of adolescent girls in general, but of the population of a given study. That’s still pretty disturbing, but not as scary as it sounded at first. Just who was this population, anyway? Let’s see how bad this is:
A national survey of the U.S. population conducted between 1988 and 1994 found that more than one in five people over 12 had blood tests that showed evidence for infection with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV 2), the virus typically responsible for genital herpes
I’ll admit, I’m not much of a mathematician but I’m pretty sure one in five is closer to twenty percent. Have rates increased to sixty percent since 1994? Could those lurid sex stories you hear about young girls these days be true?
More details from the story:
Fife and his team analyzed data from a study in which a group of young women were followed closely to determine if they contracted any sexually transmitted infections. Their analysis included results of blood and genital specimen tests obtained every three months from 100 women aged 14 to 18.
At the study’s outset, they found, 59.6 percent of the women tested positive for HSV 1, while 13.5 percent carried HSV 2. During the follow-up period, from 1999 to 2004, four of the study participants contracted new HSV 1 infections, while seven acquired HSV 2.
HSV 1 is the cold-sore form of herpes. So that scary “60 percent” headline statistic refers to a population — don’t know which one — where sixty percent of girls have the herpes virus that might give them cold sores when they’re sick, but only 13.5 percent had the unsafe-sex version.
How does this 13.5 percent figure compare to the overall population? Of all the girls aged 14-18 in America, what percent have genital herpes? I couldn’t find that information in the article or online; best I could do was the CDC’s statistic that one out of five Americans over age 12 has HSV-2.
One out of five? It was a little more than that in the 1988-1994 study. The rates of infection have gone down, by a tiny margin.
But that’s not the type of headline that grabs people’s attention the way “60 percent of girls over age 14 tested positive for herpes” does.