There Was No Herpes Outbreak at Coachella, Health Officials Clarify
Published Apr 26, 2019Despite reports there was a "huge spike in folks looking to get treated for herpes" following Coachella, multiple medical officials have stepped in to disprove all this, clarifying there is no evidence of any herpes outbreak.
"I reached out to our lab departments, disease control and our HIV and STD program and none of them reported a spike in herpes cases," Jose Arballo, a public information officer at Riverside Department of Public Health, told Billboard.
The initial Coachella herpes outbreak news story came at the hands of TMZ, which based its report solely on HerpAlert, a two-year-old app and web portal for diagnosing and treating genital herpes and cold sores.
The service requires users to pay $79 USD to access it, and then users are asked a few questions before submitting photos of their body where they believe they are experiencing an outbreak. Users are then given medical advice and a prescription if needed for treatment at a nearby pharmacy.
As previously reported, the app apparently saw a jump from about 12 people per day to 250 in the first two days of Coachella. But as various physicians and even HerpAlert's own medical director have now clarified, this was likely just due to users inquiring about herpes prior to the festival — and not because they were reporting a mass herpes outbreak at Coachella.
"My first reaction is that the whole thing is kind of silly because symptoms don't typically show up in 24 hours," Dr. Jill Grimes told Billboard. "It can take anywhere from two to 12 days for symptoms to appear, although the average is three to four days."
Grimes added that while it's not uncommon for large events such as Coachella to see an increase in herpes cases, the 20-times spike seemed suspiciously high.
What's more, HerpAlert medical director Lynn Marie Morski said that the 1,105 electronic consult requests made on the app were not necessarily new cases, but people using the platform for a variety of reasons.
"There were many coming to get medication to treat and prevent flares. We see it as people deciding to take proactive care of their health and the health of those they may interact with over the weekend," Morski said. "We do not have a number of diagnosed new cases, as sometimes we cannot determine via their history and photos, so we have to advise they see a provider in person."
An official from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health echoed all this, saying it had seen no uptick in herpes cases.