From The Los Angeles Times–Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease, affecting about 16% of U.S. adults. A lot of people, however, don’t have outbreaks of painful blisters and don’t know they have the infection. Others know they have herpes but believe they can’t transmit it to a sexual partner unless they’re experiencing symptoms.

A study published Tuesday paints a far more complex portrait of genital herpes, also called herpes simplex virus type 2. Researchers conducted one of the largest studies to date of people who test positive for herpes type 2. Some of the participants had occasional symptoms of herpes, and others were always asymptomatic. The 498 participants were asked to collect a genital swab each day for at least 30 days. The researchers, from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, then looked at evidence of viral shedding–the presence of actively replicating virus that can be transmitted to another person. They also noted whether the participant had any obvious signs of an outbreak.

Among 410 people who had symptoms, active virus was found on 20.1% of the testing days compared with 10.2% of the days in the 88 people who had herpes but were asymptomatic. Presence of the virus was detected at least once in 83.4% of the people with symptomatic infection and 68.2% of people with asymptomatic herpes.

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