People tend to panic when they think about herpes. There's a lot of stigma surrounding it—such as the assumption that infected people are careless or unsanitary—but in reality, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is incredibly prevalent. About 3.7 billion people younger than age 50 have HSV-1 globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"There are nine different herpes viruses in the human herpes virus family," said Jenelle Marie Pierce, a certified sexuality educator in North Carolina and executive director at the STI Project, which raises awareness and fights stigma of sexually transmitted infections. "Other common viruses in the family are the varicella-zoster virus [HHV-3], which causes chickenpox and shingles, and the Epstein-Barr virus [HHV-4] which causes mononucleosis or mono, commonly called 'the kissing disease.'"
"HSV-1 is a type of DNA virus," added