Europe as a continent with many developed countries have felt the impact of the herpes simplex virus on its people. Nonetheless, the prevalence of genital herpes has reduced among adults in the continent but with an increasing prevalence of oral herpes among some population. This could be as a result of a rising trend in the involvement of people in oral sex.
The World Health Organization reported that by 2012, 207 million women and 187 million men in Europe were already infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. In 2012 alone, 5 million women and 5 million men were infected with oral herpes.
In Northern Europe, there is an increase in the prevalence of genital herpes caused by oral herpes because oral sex is dominant in that region. More women are getting infected with genital herpes than the men owing to the anatomical differences between them.
Also, as more women are getting initiated into the act of sex earlier than men, 15-24-year old women were the worst hit in the infection with genital herpes. This eventually accounts for the increase in the likelihood that there would be more babies infected with herpes as they are being given birth to through their infected mothers.
In a 2004 report emanating from a study on the prevalence of herpes in Europe by R.G. Pebody and his colleagues, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic had the highest number of persons who tested positive to herpes. The Netherlands and Finland had the lowest records. Children between 5 to 9 years of age in Central Eastern Europe were infected with oral herpes.
Herpes here refers to the infection that gives cold sores and blisters in certain areas of the body, which can be transmitted sexually. It is renowned as a global epidemic which has found its way to the league of the commonest sexually transmitted diseases in the world. It is prevalent in both the developed and developing worlds and is of immense public health concern because of the burden its complications place on infected persons.
Herpes simplex virus is the organism responsible for the herpes infection of which there are two types:
- One that affects the mouth and the face with cold sores. It is known as herpes simplex virus type 1 or HSV-1 or oral herpes, and
- One that affects the genitals with sores and lesions/wounds. It is known as herpes simplex type 2 or HSV-2 or genital herpes.
A good number of infected persons can live their long lives without any symptom of the infection, however, those who have symptoms usually present with painful sores that are recurrent and uncomfortable.
By the way, both oral herpes and genital herpes cannot be cured completely. Once one is infected, one is infected for life with bouts of the infection coming back as one's body permits.
An asymptomatic person can transmit the disease to another through his/her saliva or genital secretions. A person with symptoms such as sores and lesions has the virus present in the sores and lesions. On close body contacts with others, through kissing or sexual encounters, the virus can find its way into another's body. Children can get infected through contacts such as courteous kissing with infected persons.
Impact of Herpes on Europe
Though a rare occurrence in Europe with 1 affected baby out of 15,000 live births in the United Kingdom, neonatal herpes still is deadly and can lead to the death of a child before adulthood. Several complications including blindness and difficulties in body coordination are associated with neonatal herpes. A baby acquires the infection during his birth as he/she passes through the infected mother's birth canal.
Stigmatization and Psychological Burden
It is well-known that cold sores and blisters are associated with herpes which is a sexually transmitted disease. Those who have cold sores are stigmatized in certain countries in Europe since they are perceived as morally and sexually loose. This is not the case for a good number of cases of herpes infection. Stigmatization often brings depression to the infected. They withdraw from meaningful social relationships and tend to live in regrets over their herpes status.
Cost of Managing Herpes
Getting treated for herpes is not just a onetime affair; the infection recurs and so, demands some medication at every point in time. People spend a lot of money traveling abroad for surgeries to remove the blisters. Immunocompromised persons like HIV patients and patients undergoing chemotherapy do not find it easy with the infection.
This is because since the body's immune system is required to fight against the virus, the inability of that happening proves to be fatal on the immunocompromised ones. Huge amounts of resources are spent on them to ensure that their lives are saved.
This disease condition occurs when oral herpes migrates to the brain area. Both children and adults are affected by herpetic encephalitis. The brain area becomes inflamed and complications such as seizure, consciousness, and behavioral disorders arise. This is predominant in Europe.
An Indicator for HIV Transmission
The increasing prevalence of HIV among men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men and women is associated with the rising trend in herpes transmission. Genital herpes makes HIV transmission easy. It is an indicator in identifying the at-risk population for HIV.
The herpes simplex virus is accomplished as well as abundant almost everywhere on earth. The grouping of the virus is not quite distinctive as oral herpes can cause genital sores or infection more than genital herpes in some populations and does not care whether you live in France, Italy, Russia, or elsewhere in Europe.
The verdict: get tested before it gets out of hand!