Herpes simplex virus (HSV) has two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both infect epithelial cells and establish latent infections in neurons causing an infection that persists for life. Information on age- and gender-specific seroprevalence of HSV-1 and HSV-2 is valuable for understanding HSV transmission dynamics and designing population-based prevention and intervention programs for HSV. However, such information is not available for China.
Cryopreserved serum samples of all subjects aged 5 to 60 years from two randomly selected rural villages in Zhejiang province in Eastern China who had participated in the China national seroepidemiological survey of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection conducted in 2006 were tested. Seroprevalence of HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections were determined by type-specific IgG antibody tests using an ELISA technique. Their 95% confidence intervals adjusted for the sampling fraction were calculated according to the Clopper-Pearson method.
A total of 2,141 residents participated in the survey, with a response rate of 82.3%. HSV-1 seroprevalence was 92.0% overall, 89.1% for males and 94.2% for females. HSV-1 seroprevalence was 61.6% among children aged 5-9 years, 90.3% among 25-29 years, and nearly 100% among those aged > = 40 years. HSV-2 seroprevalence was 13.2% overall, 10.5% for males and 15.3% for females. No children aged 5-14 years were HSV-2 positive, and HSV-2 seroprevalence was 7.1% among 15-19 years and peaked at 24.3% among those aged 45-49 years. Neither HSV-1 nor HSV-2 infections were significantly different by gender. About 11.8% of study subjects were co-infected with both types of HSV. Among 549 participating couples, 8.6% were HSV-1 serodiscordant and 11.8% were HSV-2 serodiscordant. No one tested positive for HIV. The overall prevalence of HBsAg was 16.2%, 16.9% for males and 15.4% for females.
HSV-1 was highly prevalent among all rural residents aged between 5-60 years in Eastern China, whereas HSV-2 was prevalent among sexually active people. HSV-1 and HSV-2 have different transmission modes and dynamics. Future HSV prevention and control programs in China should be type specific.