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The Public Health Imperative for a Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Surveillance System

Donoval, Betty A. BS*; Passaro, Douglas J. MD, MPH*; Klausner, Jeffrey D. MD, MPH

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: March 2006 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 170-174
doi: 10.1097/01.olq.0000187203.27918.45

About 1 in 5 sexually active adults in the United States has serologic evidence of genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type-2. Neonatal herpes simplex virus infection is a serious consequence of genital herpes infection. Herpes infection in neonates causes significant morbidity and neurologic damage and generally has a case-fatality ratio untreated of 60%. It is estimated that 440 to 1320 cases of neonatal herpes infections occur in the United States per year (11–33 cases occur per 100,000 live births). Given the challenges in surveillance for genital herpes due to the large number of asymptomatic infections and infrequent laboratory-based diagnosis, we recommend that to begin an effective national control program for herpes infections, a mandatory national surveillance system for neonatal herpes be implemented. Such a system would help assure appropriate therapy, help monitor trends and understand the burden of disease, identify risk determinants, and evaluate prevention efforts.

A national neonatal herpes simplex virus infection surveillance system is proposed to fulfill essential public health activities to monitor trends and understand the burden of disease.

From the *Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois; and the †STD Prevention and Control Services, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, California

We would like to sincerely thank our collaborator Dr. Douglas Passaro for his insight and contributions. He is remembered not only as a respected colleague and teacher but a friend as well.

Correspondence: Betty Donoval, BS, University of Illinois Chicago, School of Public Health, 1603 W Taylor, Chicago, IL 60612. E-mail:

Received for publication April 12, 2005, and accepted July 27, 2005.

© Copyright 2006 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association