An estimated 3.7 billion people in the world under 50 are contaminated with the infectious herpes virus, according to the latest findings of the World Health Organization. In a study published by the WHO on Oct. 28, nearly two-thirds are reportedly suffering from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) after getting it as a child.

The WHO approximates 320 million infected, 178 million of which are women and the other 132 million are men. This is added to the estimated 417 million people infected with HSV-2, or genital herpes. Usually, HSV-1 is manifested by mouth ulcers. But recently, it has been a contributing factor in genital herpes too. 

On the other hand, HSV-2 results in painful blisters that may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Furthermore, it can also be a predisposing factor to getting and spreading HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.

"Some people have no symptoms. Others get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body," the US National Library of Medicine said. "They turn into blisters, become itchy and painful, and then heal... Most people have outbreaks several times a year. Over time, you get them less often."

"We really need to accelerate the development of vaccines against herpes simplex virus, and if a vaccine designed to prevent HSV-2 infection also prevented HSV-1, it would have far-reaching benefits," WHO medical officer Sami Gottlieb said.

It appears that people living in developing countries have a higher incidence of contracting the disease compared with those living in first-world countries like America and Europe. In addition, children in rich countries are also less likely to contract the infection, but both men and women have an increased chance of acquiring genital herpes via oral sex.

"Access to education and information on both types of herpes and sexually transmitted infections is critical to protect young people's health before they become sexually active," the director of Department of Reproductive Health and Research of WHO said.