Herpes cases spiked at Coachella this year, and it was the 'perfect situation' for an outbreak

  • The number of reported herpes cases spiked in the area around this year’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival, according to HerpAlert, a diagnosis-and-treatment service.
  • According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six people in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes.
  • A person can contract herpes if they have genital, anal, or oral contact with someone who has the sexually transmitted disease, or through contact with skin or saliva.
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

In mid-April, Coachella Valley was abuzz with more than just music acts. It may have also been a hotbed of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

HerpAlert, a service for diagnosing and getting treatment for herpes, said that in the first two days of the Coachella Music & Arts Festival – which is over two weekends in Indio, California – it treated 250 cases of oral and genital herpes per day in the surrounding area.

“We typically see 12 or so cases a day in the Southern California area,” Alexandra Harbushka, a HerpAlert representative, told INSIDER.

Between April 12 and 25, 1,105 total herpes cases were reported in Indio, Palm Desert, and Coachella Valley, as well as the surrounding counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego, according to TMZ.

Harbushka said Coachella (or any festival for that matter) offers the “perfect situation” for herpes transmission and outbreaks, since it can flare up when people feel tired or stressed, or have long periods of sun exposure – all things festivalgoers likely experienced.

Herpes can be transmitted genitally or orally, through contact with skin or saliva – so in a place where people are sharing drinks, cigarettes, and lipsticks, or having casual sex, it has plenty of chances to spread.

You can’t get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools.


Read more:
You’re probably not getting tested for STIs as often as you should

Herpes is common in the United States

People with herpes don’t always realise they have it, because many don’t show any symptoms, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, but genital herpes is pretty common. In the United States, one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 has the sexually transmitted disease, the CDC says.

To prevent contracting herpes, the CDC recommends having sex only with a partner who doesn’t have it, as well as using a condom properly every time you have sex – though condoms don’t offer complete protection, since sores can be on areas other than what a condom covers. The virus can also be active on areas of the body without visible sores.

People with herpes who have a sexual partner without herpes can take medication daily to reduce their chances of transmitting it.

Harbushka said the best way to prevent the spread of herpes at big events like Coachella is through candid conversations.

“When you talk about herpes, it lets both parties know what’s going on, and you can talk about what safe sex means to the both of you,” she said.

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