BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7116.1170 (Published 01 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1170

Genital herpes was much discussed in the 1980s and early 1990s but seems (to Minerva at least) to have faded from prominence in the popular media. Yet a major study in the United States (New England Journal of Medicine 1997;337:1105-21) has found that in 1988–94 the proportion of Americans over the age of 12 with antibodies to the virus was 21%. That is an increase of 30% over the prevalence in 1976-80. The highest rates were in people aged 30-39. Overall, these figures suggest that neither propaganda about safe sex nor antiviral drugs have had any impact on the control of the disease.

A vaccine is available to give short term immunity to meningococcal infection due to serogroups A, C, Y, and W135, but it is not recommended for the general population (Eurosurveillance 1997;2:69-71). The protection given by the vaccine lasts for only three years, it is poorly immunogenic in children under 18 months, and it lacks a serogroup B component—and meningococci of that group account for most cases of meningococcal disease in Europe and North America. New vaccines are being developed that should solve some of these problems.

Current warnings of the dangers of exposing the skin to sunlight make a dramatic contrast with medical practice …

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