Cold sores are common: two-thirds of the population under 50 have herpes simplex virus 1
28 October 2015 – Around 67% of the population, under the age of 50, are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This is according to WHO’s first global estimates. The new estimates highlight the fact that HSV-1 is an important cause of genital herpes.
WHO and its partners are working to accelerate development vaccines for herpes simplex. These will have a crucial role in preventing these infections in the future. However, since cold sores are common, it will take generations before a vaccine has a population-wide effect.
By adulthood, it is more usual to have cold sore virus than not. Only one person in three who catches the virus will realise it. Two out of three have such mild symptoms – a little cut, a sore patch, an itchy place or what they think is an infected hair follicle – that they don’t get diagnosed.
People who already carry the virus are very unlikely to catch it a second time, anywhere else on their bodies. The antibodies they have created to combat the cold sore protects them against further infection. However, we do not recommend that you kiss others when you have a cold sore, or if you suspect a cold sore is on its way…