New Orleans is classified as the capital of US genital herpes when scientists find out why the virus keeps coming back

HOUSTON – New Orleans may be the famous home of Mardi Gras, but a new study finds that it is also the new home of genital herpes.

A team reports that New Orleans had the highest prevalence of genital herpes in a study of more than 130,000 Americans in more than 30 U.S. cities. More than one in five people (20.4%) tested in New Orleans had the herpes virus. This is well above the national average of 15.7 percent, according to researchers.

“New Orleans could be on the brink of a public health crisis due to the high spread of genital herpes in the city. We can’t stress enough that sexually active people use protection to avoid getting an STD,” he says. Dr. David Jayne, medical director of, in a press release.

The study’s authors point out that New Orleans has seen a recent outbreak of genital herpes during the pandemic, which has soared 57 percent since 2019. Three years ago, researchers estimated that only 13 percent one hundred New Orleans residents had the virus.

Because there is currently no definitive cure for STDs, researchers are asking adults to be tested continuously if they are sexually active. They add that herpes “should not be the end of your sex life.”

To complete the top five metropolitan areas with the highest rates of genital herpes are Salt Lake City (19.2%), Cincinnati (19.1%), Charlotte (19%) and Orlando (19%).

“Unprotected sex is dangerous and people need to know if it has been exposed to prevent more serious health problems,” says Dr. Jayne.

Why does the virus keep coming back?

In a separate study, German scientists have also discovered what causes herpes viruses to return continuously and affect their carriers.

Up to this point, doctors have discovered eight different herpes viruses that infect humans. After the initial infection, they settle and remain relatively dormant inside the body, but the virus never completely disappears. When patients experience an outbreak, itchy cold sores, blisters or shingles appear in problem areas.

The new study in the journal Nature discovered a previously unknown cellular mechanism that viral microRNA uses to reactivate herpes in a patient.

For the first time, the study found that herpes viral microRNA acts as a major regulator, causing the virus to reactivate. During this research, the team focused on human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), which more than 90 percent of the population carries without realizing it! This particular herpesvirus only causes problems if it continues to wake up from its latent state.

“How to reactivate herpesviruses from a latent state is the central issue in herpesvirus research,” says Julius-Maximilians-Universität virologist Lars Dölken in a university statement. “If we understand this, we know how to intervene therapeutically.”

Discovering the key to herpes outbreaks

The team discovered that the key appears to be the viral microRNA called miR-aU14. In HHV-6, the miR-aU14 regulator comes from the virus itself. As soon as the viral microRNA expresses this gene, it begins to disrupt the metabolism of human microRNA.

This leads to a chain reaction within the human body that ultimately alters the ability of the immune system to detect the presence of viruses. When this happens, the herpesvirus is able to change from a latent state to an active state.

U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest rates of genital herpes:

  1. New Orleans-Metairie, Louisiana (20.4%)
  2. Salt Lake City, Utah (19.2%)
  3. Cincinnati, Ohio (19.1%)
  4. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, North Carolina (19.0%)
  5. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida (19.0%)
  6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California (18.9%)
  7. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada (18.7%)
  8. St. Lluís, Mo. (18.3%)
  9. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon (18.1%)
  10. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (18.0%)
  11. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ (18.0%)
  12. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois (18.0%)
  13. Raleigh-Cary, NC (17.9%)
  14. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, Calif. (17.8%)
  15. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California (17.7%)
  16. Washington DC-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia (17.6%)
  17. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana (17.5%)
  18. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado (17.4%)
  19. Oklahoma City, Okla (17.4%)
  20. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pennsylvania-NJ-Del. (17.4%)
  21. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota (17.4%)
  22. Jacksonville, Florida (17.3%)
  23. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (17.1%)
  24. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, California (16.9%)
  25. Columbus, Ohio (16.9%)
  26. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts (16.9%)
  27. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Arizona (16.9%)
  28. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas (16.6%)
  29. Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wisconsin (16.5%)
  30. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington (16.5%)
  31. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, Ga. (16.1%)
  32. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland (16.0%)
  33. Kansas City, Missouri (15.7%)
  34. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California (15.4%)

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