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BACKGROUND: Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) has public health importance as a leading cause of genital ulcers, a co-factor in HIV-1 acquisition and transmission and as a cause of neonatal herpes infections. Little is known of its epidemiology and burden in Coastal Kenya. METHODS: We screened plasma samples for HSV-2 infection from 826 women aged 15-34 years who participated in an HIV-1 survey in Kilifi in 2004. The sample comprised 563 women selected randomly from a demographic surveillance system (DSS) and 263 women who presented for voluntary counseling and testing (VCT). Predictors for HSV-2 seropositivity were determined using multivariate logistic regression. The incidence of HSV-2 infection and risk of neonatal herpes were estimated by a simple catalytic model fitted to age-seroprevalence data. RESULTS: HSV-2 prevalence was 32% in the DSS recruits vs. 44% in the VCT recruits (P < 0.001), while, HIV-1 prevalence was 8% in the DSS recruits vs. 12% in the VCT recruits (P = 0.12). Independent risk factors for HSV-2 infection in all women were: older age (30-34 years; odds ratio (OR) 10.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 5.2 - 21.0), recruitment from VCT (OR 1.5, 95% CI: 1.1 - 2.1), history of genital ulcers (OR 1.7, 95% CI: 1.2 - 2.3) and HIV infection (OR 2.7, 95% CI: 1.6-4.6). Education beyond primary (OR 0.7, 95% CI: 0.5 - 0.9) was inversely associated with HSV-2 infection. In the DSS sample, HSV-2 incidence was estimated at 4 cases (95% CI: 3.3 - 4.4) per 100 women per year, 17 cases (95% CI: 16-18) per 1,000 pregnancies per year and 33 neonatal cases (95% CI: 31-36) per 100,000 births per year. CONCLUSIONS: HSV-2 transmission is rapid following the onset of sexual activity and likely to result in a significant burden of genital ulcer disease. Nevertheless, the burden of neonatal HSV-2 can be predicted to be low. Educating young women about HSV-2 infection may help in reducing its burden in this semi-urban population.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Infect Dis

Publication Date





Adolescent, Adult, Antibodies, Viral, Female, Herpes Simplex, Herpesvirus 2, Human, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical, Kenya, Male, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Infectious, Seroepidemiologic Studies, Urban Health, Young Adult