Cold Sore & Herpes Virus Statistics

If you have experienced, been diagnosed with, or know you have been infected with a Herpes virus, or have experienced Cold Sore outbreaks (which are caused by the Herpes simplex Type 1 virus – also known as HSV-1), you need to know you are not alone.

Herpes is one of the most common virus infections in the world, and one of the fastest spreading viruses known.  There are two main types of Herpes virus infections that are of great concern to both men and women: HSV-1 (oral Herpes, or ‘Cold Sores’) and HSV-2 (genital Herpes).

It is important to note that statistics on Herpes virus infections vary depending on the source of the information, the nature of the study or sampling methods used, and the time of the data collection.  We present here some of the latest available statistics, verified through the most credible sources available, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), NIH (National Institutes of Health), as well as other governmental, medical school and STD research facilities.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that nearly 80% of the world’s population has been infected with the Herpes virus
  • One out of five adolescents and adults is infected with genital Herpes in the United States
  • Infection is more common in women (approximately one out of four women or greater) than in men (approximately one out of five or greater)
  • Male-to-female transmission is more likely and more common than female-to-male transmission.
  • One in five Americans (approximately 20%) have genital Herpes (yet at least 80 percent of those with HSV-2 – genital Herpes – are unaware they have it)
  • About 80 percent of American adults have oral Herpes (cold sores) – that’s over 260 million Americans
  • An estimated 25 percent of American adults have genital Herpes
  • Approximately two-thirds of people who acquire STDs in the United States are younger than 25
  • About one in five people in the United States over age 12 (approximately 65 million+ individuals) are infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital Herpes
  • At least one in four Americans will contract an STD at some point in their lives
  • Up to 1 million new HSV-2 infections may be transmitted each year in the United States
  • Genital Herpes infection also is more common among African Americans (45.9%) than among White Caucasians (17.6%)
  • Since the late 1970s, the number of Americans with genital Herpes infection has increased 30%, and continues to increase
  • The largest increase of genital Herpes is among young Caucasian teenagers
  • Genital Herpes infection is now five times more common in 12- to 19-year-old Caucasian adolescents than over the past 30 years
  • Genital Herpes is twice as common among young adults ages 20 to 29 than it was 20 years ago

Herpes simplex Type 1 is the virus responsible for causing ‘Cold Sores’

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on October 28, 2015 that more than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the population – are infected with Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), according to WHO’s first global estimates of HSV-1 infection published in the journal PLOS ONE.

It is estimated that in the United States alone, nearly 70% to 80% of all adults test positive for the Herpes simplex Type 1 virus, and that some 40% experience recurring outbreaks, meaning that nearly 240 million Americans suffer the pain and embarrassment of recurring Cold Sore outbreaks.

Herpes simplex virus is categorized into 2 types: Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are highly infectious and incurable. HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact and in most cases causes orolabial herpes or “cold sores” around the mouth. HSV-2 is almost entirely sexually transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, causing genital herpes.

WHO reported: “The new estimates highlight, however, that HSV-1 is also an important cause of genital herpes. Some 140 million people aged 15-49 years are infected with genital HSV-1 infection, primarily in the Americas, Europe and Western Pacific. Fewer people in high-income countries are becoming infected with HSV-1 as children, likely due to better hygiene and living conditions, and are instead at risk of contracting it genitally through oral sex after they become sexually active.”


Estimates for HSV-1 prevalence by region among people aged 0-49:

  • Americas: 178 million women (49%), 142 million men (39%)
  • Africa: 350 million women (87%), 355 million men (87%)
  • Eastern Mediterranean: 188 million women (75%), 202 million men (75%)
  • Europe: 207 million women (69%), 187 million men (61%)
  • South-East Asia: 432 million women (59%), 458 million men (58%)
  • Western Pacific: 488 million women (74%), 521 million men (73%)

Estimates of new annual HSV-1 infections among people aged 0-49:

  • Americas: 6 million women, 5 million men
  • Africa: 17 million women, 18 million men
  • Eastern Mediterranean: 6 million women, 7 million men
  • Europe: 5 million women, 5 million men
  • South-East Asia: 13 million women, 14 million men
  • Western Pacific: 11 million women, 12 million men

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek professional medical attention for any rashes, blisters or outbreaks you may be experiencing. The information on this website is not intended as medical advice or to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional.