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Herpes infections, related complications cost billions in health care expenditures, productivity losses globally – study

Genital herpes infections and their related complications lead to billions of dollars in health care expenditures and productivity losses.

Photo by Jonas Jaeken from Unsplash.com

Genital herpes infections and their related complications lead to billions of dollars in health care expenditures and productivity losses globally.

The study — “Estimated global and regional economic burden of genital herpes simplex virus infection among 15–49 year-olds in 2016” by Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, Shaun Wen Huey Lee, Puttarin Kulchaitanaroaj, et al — appeared in the BMC Global and Public Health.

The researchers noted that while, globally, herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2 and -1 infections contribute to a large disease burden, their full economic consequences remain unclear. So they wanted to estimate the global economic impact of genital HSV-2 and HSV-1 infection and its consequences for people with genital ulcer disease, neonatal herpes, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection attributable to HSV-2.

The economic burden was calculated at the country level and presented by World Health Organization (WHO) regions and World-Bank income levels. The disease burden was obtained from previously published global disease burden studies in 2016 and disaggregated for 194 countries. Estimates of healthcare resource utilization were sourced from a literature review, and online interviews were conducted with 20 experts from all six WHO regions. Relevant costs were obtained from the literature and estimated in 2016 international dollars (I$).

The study found:

  • Both genital HSV-2 (I$31·2 billion) and HSV-1 (I$4·0 billion) infections and their consequences were estimated to cost I$35·3 billion globally in 2016.
  • The major economic burden was from the Americas and Western Pacific regions combined, accounting for almost two-thirds of the global burden (I$20·8 billion).
  • High- and upper-middle-income countries bore a large proportion of the economic burden (76·6% or I$27·0 billion).
  • Costs were driven by the large number of HSV-2 recurrences; however, even assuming conservatively that people with symptomatic herpes have on average only one episode a year, global costs were estimated at I$16·5 billion.

“The global costs of genital HSV infection and its consequences are substantial,” stressed the researchers. As such, “HSV prevention interventions have the potential to avert a large economic burden in addition to disease burden; thus, efforts to accelerate HSV vaccine development are crucial.”

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