Background Prevalence of clinically manifest orofacial herpes in the general population is poorly characterized.
Objectives To establish the lifetime prevalence of clinically manifest orofacial herpes and its relationship with herpes simplex virus (HSV) serotype in the French general population.
Patients/methods Subjects (N = 2796) were serotyped for HSV1 and HSV2 and provided data on herpetic symptoms by questionnaire. Subjects reporting at least one episode of orobuccal ulcerative mucosal lesions were classified as clinically manifest orofacial herpes.
Results Lifetime prevalence of clinically manifest orofacial herpes was 38.3% (42.1% in women, 32.4% in men). Prevalence in subjects seropositive for HSV1 was 50.3%. This prevalence rate was independent of HSV2 serotype. Prevalence in subjects infected with HSV2 alone was similar to that in subjects seronegative for HSV.
Limitations Lack of case ascertainment limits precision of the data.
Conclusions Clinically manifest orofacial herpes was reported in one third of the sample, principally associated with HSV1 infection. HSV2 infection did not produce orofacial lesions nor influence clinical manifestations of HSV1 infection.