Herpes and the Coronavirus: A moment of perspective

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you have seen the prevalence of virus news appearing all over the internet, TV, and radio once again. It is apparent that fear has managed to cause a large amount of panic, ending with a lack of readily available toilet paper, bread, and  – let’s face it – some common courtesy. It is somewhat disturbing that this high level of anxiety is not just isolated to a few specific countries but can be seen in almost all of the world’s population. I guess this sudden uncontrollable fear doesn’t stop people from shopping in their pajamas, however. 

When we mention the words ‘social distancing,’ it’s evident that most of us do not like change, and even more so, we rarely accept ideas or statements we do not understand. Canceling events that are likely to draw people in large numbers or even a small party at a friend’s home can be unnerving. Besides the fact that human beings communicate through touch, gathering where people will congregate is an everyday event: your job, the office, a convenience store, the bank – the list goes on. It can be very jarring to tell others that they can no longer go about their business and must isolate themselves because of a contagious virus – scary to say the least.

Most things that we do not understand get answered in a few different ways. We may haphazardly assume what the answer may be, we may make a complete guess, or we do not even give it a second thought and just move on; but if it’s something we don’t fully understand that can cause us harm, or even death, this is when fear can overtake rational thinking.

We only understand what we love and only love what we understand.

Unfortunately, blame and fear are at the front line of defense of many battles against the unknown. We see this throughout our history, and if rational thought and logic are pushed aside, this small fire that can grow faster than any infectious virus ever could. Adding prejudice can inflame the issue, like throwing a can of gasoline directly onto a small fire. 

When it comes to stigmas, there are plenty to go around, and they are so quick to be applied. We see this every day. This act of judging people and their actions can be seen everywhere. It is the foundation of comedy and tragedy, and while most of us will refuse to admit it, it’s fun to judge others and make jokes; we are all guilty of it. But how far do you take it; do you make it personal and how clear is your context?

It is obvious that the hot topic of discussion today is the Covid19 virus, a member of the coronavirus family. The common cold is an example of one of them. Unfortunately, Covid19 is only one that has been causing fear and panic over the past few months and the one that many have been dwelling over especially when it comes to the death toll—a nonstop news broadcast of death. Weird that up to 50,000 people (in the United States), will die of the common flu this season and many have already forgotten about it. 

Information on Covid19 Source: CDC

The world ends tonight at 9, news at 11.

If you have been watching the news as much as I have, it can be terrifying. A great deal of focus is being placed upon the mortality rate of Covid19 when comparing it to other viruses. Much of this fear mongering is due to television networks all fighting for the top spot and the highest ratings. Most people are unaware of the viruses and bacteria that surround them on a daily basis. On your eyelid alone, you can find different forms of HPV, but when we hear the word DEATH, this will do more than raise an eyebrow. This cause for alarm becomes very real but I also think some television stations may not be giving us the full picture. 

When it comes to mortality rates of diseases, there can be many different factors involved; that’s for sure. Country of origin, age ranges, current climate, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, smoking, obesity, and health care—there’s a lot to consider. Either way the subject matter is quite dismal, and I’m sure the math involved will be mind numbing. When a new disease like this happens, gathering statistics is going to be incomplete, so locking down any exact number of infections and predicting mortality will be a guess at first, at least until more numbers come in. 

It’s easy to focus on the negative statistics because death is scary as hell, but even when we look at the survival rates of other diseases, many people are unaware that some diseases can have long lasting effects after recovery. Survival doesn’t always mean healthy and OK. 

An excellent example of this is a disease called Measles. Most healthy people will survive; however, the virus will cause a patient’s immune response to have amnesia (to other previously exposed viruses, bacteria and new pathogens). This damaged immune response is now severely lacking in a healthy response and leaves the patient’s future with an immune system that is compromised. All the while, this disease is currently vaccine preventable, just saying anti vaxxers. You know, they say if you connect the measles dots on a child’s back, it spells out “my parents are stupid.” Anyway, it is still too early to tell what the long lasting effects that COvid19 will have on a recovered patient’s lungs or if that exposure to this new virus creates an antibody response for future protection. They don’t know yet. However, it’s important to say that most people are recovering and doing well.


Another diabolical virus that has infected over 130+ different animal species and is the only one people love to make fun of, you guessed it, it’s herpes. Herpes is older than many other viruses, and it has perfected its method of infecting its host without killing it—a most successful pathogen indeed. One that uses its host to its full potential so that it can survive and reproduce. 

Many estimates would say that most human beings carry a minimum of two of the nine types of herpes that regularly infect human beings. Some estimates also say that close to 65-80% of people carry herpes simplex explicitly, and most have no idea they carry it— an almost perfect pathogen. {1}

It is pretty impossible to avoid herpes unless you are going to live alone on a small island and never have contact with another human being ever again, herpes is inevitable. The reasons are pretty simple, and if you’re reading this, it’s already too late. In fact, by the time you have reached the ripe old age of one, you have already contracted herpes, HHV6. Happy Birthday baby. This is known as Roseola. However, many never experience any symptoms and will never know they have it… stupid sneaky herpes. By the age of two, most people have contracted HHV7, which is closely related to HHV6. Again, many have never see an infection or experience any symptoms—Video on HHV6 and 7 here. By the age of six, 58% of children have HHV5 and by the age of seven, 50% of children have contracted HHV4, the Epstein Barr Virus. Commonly known as Mono, and called “the kissing disease.” By age 10, you have good ol’ Chicken pox, HHV3. This is also the cause of shingles virus, herpes Zoster. (BTW, There is a vaccine for chicken pox and shingles now, so at least we have that. The vaccine for herpes simplex-1 and 2 is currently being worked on). By the age of 25, you have almost certainly been exposed to Herpes simplex 1 and/or 2. Although I would argue a much sooner age range for HSV-1.  

As with many viruses (including herpes), people that are affected badly by a disease are those who are immunocompromised or have an autoimmune issue. The same goes for Covid19 when they are speaking about the mortality rate and the risk of death. The difference here is that most people will tolerate herpes simplex quite well, unless they are immuno-compromised or have an autoimmune issue. 

Most who experience severe symptoms from herpes rarely have to worry about becoming gravely ill from it (with exceptions to viral meningitis, viral encephalitis, neonatal herpes in newborns and the elderly who have a tired and weak immune system). These are unfortunate but rare occurrences. 

It’s important to note that with all diseases, these two conditions (autoimmune issues and/or being immuno-compromised), are a key factor with regards to severity of disease, the lack of recovery, and a possible lower than normal survival (mortality).

It’s all about perspective.

Everyone has forgotten about herpes and is talking about Covid19. They are either making jokes or quietly panicking; perhaps there’s a bit of both in there as well. Still, isn’t it odd that we so easily forget the past? I did this as well, and there is a laundry list of viruses that we have overlooked.

Asian Flu 1957-1958, 1.1 million deaths

Hong Kong Flu 1968-1970, 1 million deaths

SARS  2002-2003 770 deaths

Swine Flu  2009-2010, 200K deaths

MERS  2012-present, 850 deaths

Ebola  2014-2016, 11.3k deaths

HIV/AIDS 1981- present 25-35 million on-going 

Influenza  2017-2018, 61,000 deaths.Current season 2018-2019, 34,175 on-going. 

Covid19  2019-present 14.5k on-going

Neonatal Herpes 14-15,000 deaths  per year 

Herpes Viral meningitis less than 1% per year, but data unclear due to other viruses that can cause 

Herpes simplex encephalitis 30% mortality with treatment. 70-80% mortality without treatment. https://www.encephalitis.info/death-from-encephalitis.

Source; NIH

Cough, Cough…

It should be quite apparent that herpes is very low on the list of pandemics. As a matter of fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it listed as an actual pandemic, but sadly, it does have one of the strongest stigmas around. (Doesn’t take a scientist to figure that out). Recently you may have seen discussions or arguments about people calling Covid19 “the Chinese Flu,” and you may also be aware of people being prejudice towards Chinese people. I’m sure you have seen this on the internet, via people refusing to order food from their establishments, spraying them with cans of Lysol on the subway, or good ol’ fashioned dirty looks. It’s stupid and flat out ignorant. Being of Chinese descent doesn’t mean you automatically have Covid19. Still, this prejudice will continue, and it’s no different than the same idiocy that happened to HIV/AIDS being labeled as a gay disease. Sorry but this particular strain of coronavirus has been named Covid-19. If you choose to change it and call it something else, that is entirely up to you. 

It’s quite easy to see how a stigma (a mark of shame or discredit), placed on Covid19 can be so easily foisted upon it and with minimal effort (same with herpes). It is not any less disturbing how so many will hear certain words, will take that gauntlet, will run with it at full speed directly into the arms of a mob of people who shares that same exact mentality. It’s easy to be loved by people who agree with you and even more so ironic that viruses have no prejudice. Indeed, prejudice is a powerful tool to be wielded. 

Even though fear can be based on some factual information, it can also be misplaced in half-truths. Yes, this new coronavirus had adapted the ability to infect human beings, but many viruses on this planet are zoonotic (meaning that they came from animals and have adapted to infecting human beings as well). After all, we are animals too, and this takes place more often than we think. {2} HIV is an example of this; a virus that originated in non-human primates in Central and West Africa and introduced itself to humans.  

Even though herpes is a virus that is very ancient, it began its journey towards Homo sapiens through our family tree of life millions of years ago. Which is ironically the same amount of time that it will probably take to remove the stigma that is on it.

Your Grandfather was a Chimp and threw poop for fun.

Some scientists believe that at one time, the herpes simplex virus was a single virus. Somewhere throughout its lifetime, the virus split in two; HSV-1 into the family branch of hominids and HSV-2 into the family branch of chimps, but much later, the virus made its way back into the homo sapiens family branch. 

However, there is some new science to suggest that HSV-1 was specific to the family branch; leading up to Homo sapiens), and HSV-2 was specific to the family branch; leading up to chimps. This would infer that HSV-2 was introduced to the family branch of homo sapiens from chimps much later. 

Somewhere between 3 and 1.4 million years ago, HSV-2 jumped the species barrier from African apes back into human ancestors. Probably due to the wild animal instincts of biting and butchery, thanks a million guys…

The researchers compared the HSV-1 and HSV-2 gene sequences to the family tree of simplex viruses from eight monkey and ape host species. Using advanced models of molecular evolution, the scientists were able to more accurately estimate ancient viral divergence times. This approach allowed them to determine when HSV-1 and HSV-2 were introduced into humans with far more precision than standard models that do not account for natural selection over the course of viral evolution.   

The genetics of human and primate herpes viruses were examined to assess their similarity. It became clear that HSV-1 has been present in humans far longer than HSV-2, prompting the researchers to further investigate the origins of HSV-2 in humans. 

The viral family tree showed that HSV-2 was far more genetically similar to the herpes virus found in chimpanzees. This level of divergence indicated that humans must have acquired HSV-2 from an ancestor of modern chimpanzees about 1.6 million years ago, prior to the rise of modern humans roughly 200,000 years ago.”
Article source

The battle of the stigma.

I am not going to make a full-on comparison here that states that the Covid19 virus is worse than herpes, although I would hope this conclusion would be visible. Also, you may have noticed that I did not make any comparisons to the common flu, that has been extremely overdone. I merely wanted to cause the reader to think and put the world of viruses into perspective, especially with regards to risk, mortality and stigmas.

If you were to ask a person that suffers from herpes the reasons why they wish to remain silent and would rather not talk about herpes (out loud or in large groups), it’s because of the stigma. This dark cloud of shame that hangs over one’s head can be quite large for some of us. But if we take a moment to view the world around us with all the risks involved and all the other viruses that pose substantial risk and death, is the stigma on herpes really worth all this effort? 

Other article: Will Herpes Affect Contracting The Corona Virus?


Covid19- https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/coronaviruses/




Influenza- https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

Herpes Viral meningitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2174764/

Herpes simplex encephalitis 30% mortality with treatment. 70-80% mortality without treatment. https://www.encephalitis.info/death-from-encephalitis.


Prevelance of herpes 


Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimates that, annually, 776,000 people in the United States get new genital herpes infections. {1} Nationwide, 11.9 % of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection (12.1% when adjusted for age).{2} However, the prevalence of genital herpes infection is higher than that because an increasing number of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. {3} Oral HSV-1 infection is typically acquired in childhood; because the prevalence of oral HSV-1 infection has declined in recent decades, people may have become more susceptible to contracting a genital herpes infection from HSV-1. {4}

1. Satterwhite CL, Torrone E, Meites E, et al. Sexually transmitted infections among US women and men: prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008. Sex Transm Dis, 2013. 40(30):187-93

2. McQuillan G, Kruszon-Moran D, Flagg EW, Paulose-Ram R. Prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in persons aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 304. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018

3. Xu F, Sternberg MR, Kottiri BJ, et al. Trends in herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 seroprevalence in the United States. JAMA, 2006. 296(8): 964–73.

4. Bradley H, Markowitz L, Gibson T, et al. Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2—United States, 1999–2010. J Infect Dis, 2014. 209(3):325-33.



Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection is one of the most common viral sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. The first time infection of the mother may lead to severe illness in pregnancy and may be associated with virus transmission from mother to fetus/newborn. Since the incidence of this sexually transmitted infection continues to rise and because the greatest incidence of herpes simplex virus infections occur in women of reproductive age, the risk of maternal transmission of the virus to the fetus or neonate has become a major health concern. On these purposes the Authors of this review looked for the medical literature and pertinent publications to define the status of art regarding the epidemiology, the diagnosis, the therapy and the prevention of HSV in pregnant women and neonate. Special emphasis is placed upon the importance of genital herpes simplex virus infection in pregnancy and on the its prevention to avoid neonatal HSV infections.


How many people have herpes

Even though numbers can fluctuate from year to year; depending on many factors, these numbers are still pretty staggering. The prevalence of HSV type one is almost more than 80% of the worlds population. Almost everyone has herpes. 


Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimates that, annually, 776,000 people in the United States get new genital herpes infections

Thats over 2000 a day in the United States alone. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm#ref1 

Satterwhite CL, Torrone E, Meites E, et al. Sexually transmitted infections among US women and men: prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008. Sex Transm Dis, 2013. 40(30):187-93







HIV- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234451/

Originally Posted: https://askingforafriend.us/articles/f/herpes-and-the-coronavirus-a-moment-of-perspective

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