Herpes does not discriminate, everyone is at risk. The HSV-1 (oral herpes) virus is said to affect nearly 60% percent of the United States population ranging in ages 14-49. In this same age range, around 17% test positive for HSV-2 (the leading cause of genital herpes).
Risk factors for HSV-1
Most people who have the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) became infected as children. The virus is highly contagious and has even been found in babies as young as six months. The incidence of HSV-1 in children is much higher in unsanitary and low-income, crowded areas (more than a third of children by age 5) than it is in more affluent areas (20% of children). By the time the 20% group reaches their thirties however, the number will increase to 60 – 85%. The most likely time to be infected with HSV-1 is between six months and 3 years of age but it is possible to develop it as an adult.
Kissing or having direct contact during outbreaks
Children are especially susceptible to HSV-1 and are often infected unknowingly by an adult or family member who gives them a kiss.
As adults, kissing or having intimate contact with a partner during an outbreak (a cold sore or fever blister) or even with no symptoms at all can spread the virus. Like the HSV-2 type, the HSV-1 virus is carried in bodily fluids (like saliva, semen or fluid in the female reproductive tract), so any direct contact with sores or fluids can result in infection.
Risk Factors for HSV-2
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 45 million Americans age 12 and older that have had genital herpes. If you are sexually active, then you are at risk of getting the HSV-2 virus.
History of many partners
It stands to reason that the more sexual partners you have, the higher you risk of getting HSV-2. It’s the simple game of odds. If you have been with many partners (or really any partners at all, since it only takes one) then you should be tested. If you know of a past partner that has herpes, or if your current partner does, then your chances of having it are higher.
Compromised immune system
If you have a compromised immune system, you are far more likely to become infected with HSV-2. In fact, nearly 68-81% of HIV positive people also have herpes due to their impaired immune systems. While otherwise healthy people infected by HSV-2 typically do not experience many (if any) complications, people with HIV, or other immune system damaging disease, can face serious risks.
Risk Factors for herpetic whitlow
This form of herpes, where the herpes is located in the fingers, is less common than oral and genital herpes but can still happen.
Healthcare workers who are in direct contact with patients have a higher risk of developing herpetic whitlow.