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Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) and 2 (HSV2) infection can lead to significant morbidity, and HSV2 is considered a risk factor for HIV transmission. The majority of HSV-infected people are asymptomatic and unaware of their infection. We aimed to determine the HSV1 and HSV2 prevalence among various ethnic groups in a large urban area in the Netherlands. In 2004, serum samples from a population-based serum repository of 1,325 people over 18 years living in Amsterdam were tested for HSV1 and HSV2 antibodies in order to determine high-risk groups. Prevalence ratios were estimated and all analyses were weighted by sex, age, and ethnicity. In the general population of Amsterdam, 67% had HSV1 antibodies, 22% had HSV2 antibodies, 15% had HSV1 and HSV2 antibodies, and 26% had no indication of HSV infection. In multivariate analyses, HSV1 seroprevalence increased with age, and was higher among people of Turkish and Moroccan origin, homosexual men, and individuals with low educational level. HSV2 seroprevalence was associated with increasing age, Surinamese/Antillean background, and having a history of sexually transmitted infections (STI). These differences between ethnic groups in Amsterdam regarding the distribution of HSV1 and HSV2 infection emphasise the importance of an ethnic-specific approach of serological testing as well as campaigns aimed at behavioural change and counselling to raise awareness of the risk of HSV transmission.


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