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Coachella Herpes Outbreak? STD Diagnostic Center Sees Tenfold Increase in Patients After Music Festival

Coachella-surrounding areas have seen a significant increase in the number of reported cases of herpes in the after two weekends of the music festival.

An increased number of patients have logged on to a digital herpes diagnostic center, HerpAlert, for quick and discreet diagnosis, TMZ reported Thursday. HerpAlert confirmed they’ve seen a wild increase in prescriptions to treat the STD, even as early as the first days of the festival.

The areas listed for the increased incidence of herpes are Indio, Palm Desert and Coachella Valley, along with some increased trends in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego.

On a normal day, HerpAlert digitally serves around 12 patients. As soon as two days into the music festival, though, nearly 250 people wrote in with their STD concerns, nearly a tenfold increase from an average day. Since then, more than 1,105 cases have been reported, HerpAid told TMZ.

HerpAlert allows patients to upload a photo of the affected area, and receive advice and any necessary prescription in as little as two hours. 

Herpes is not an uncommon virus, and is active in 67 percent of the world population, according to the World Health Organization in October 2015. At the time of the 2015 report, more than 3.7 billion people were positive for HSV-1, or the oral herpes virus, which causes lesions on the mouth and surrounding areas.

The oral virus is easily spread through mouth-to-mouth contact, according to the organization. It can be assumed the Coachella virus may have spread through kissing and other forms of skin-on-skin contact. Herpes cannot be passed through sharing food or drink, only through sexual and skin-to-skin contact, according to Planned Parenthood.

Dr. Lynn Marie Morski, HerpAlert medical director, told Newsweek Coachella is a typical environment for herpes outbreaks for a few reasons. "Coachella, like any summertime music festival, combines several factors that can increase the likelihood of both new herpes transmission and flare-ups of existing cases of both oral and genital herpes, such as decreased sleep, increased sun exposure, and people getting intimate with one another," she explained.

The shocking increase in numbers coincides with the conversation about sexual assault at music festivals. While Coachella festival arrests in general dropped 15 percent in 2019, according to the Desert Sun—only 98 of 120,000 festival attendees were arreseted in weekend two—music festival sexual harassment and assault statistics have increased globally.

In 2018, 43 percent of female festival attendees said they’d received unwanted sexual advances in a poll by YouGov. The poll, reported by the BBC in June 2018, also said only two percent of those incidents were reported to authorities.

Though the potential herpes outbreak at Coachella is certainly not a reported trend from past years at the festival, jokes about contracting the common STD at the fest have circulated online for years. A simple Twitter search brings up dozens of conversations of mockery against Coachella-goers.

“If you don't come back overdosed, missing a shoe, with the flu, and herpes...DID YOU EVEN GO TO COACHELLA???” wrote Twitter user @_mmtwentyone in April 2015.

Author Caprese Crane also contributed to the April 2015 conversation by tweeting “Coachella Tip: The chick with the glitter eyeshadow wearing a bikini top and feathers is totally down to hook up/give you herpes."

This article has been updated to include reference to HerpAlert, which was previously listed as HerpAid, and to include a comment from HerpAlert.

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