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KS (HHV-8)

Feb 12, 1998

I would first like to thankyou for your always prompt and detailed answers to questioners, your helpful advice is appreciated.

I understand that ks is sexually transmitted, and usually only shows its ugly self with a weakened immune system. Is it know exactly in what methods ks can be spread?


Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Kaposi's Sarcoma is a cancer that is most often seen in persons with a severely damaged immune system. This cancer has now been linked to a virus called HHV-8 (Human Herpes Virus 8), previously known as KSHV (Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpes Virus). This is a different virus than the Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV) that cause genital, oral, and anal herpes.

Recent data indicates that HHV-8 is transmitted primarily through sexual contact. HHV-8 can be found in semen. However, we still do not know what specific sexual activities can lead to transmission of this virus. Because HHV-8 is found in semen, we can assume that activities like vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and giving oral sex, may pose a risk for HHV-8. I have seen only one study that looked for HHV-8 in vaginal secretions. The researchers did not find HHV-8 in these secretions, but this was a single study, and the results are preliminary.

There is also evidence that HHV-8 may be transmitted in non-sexual ways as well. This virus has been found in saliva, nasal secretions, and blood. However, data thus far, indicates that sexual contact is probably the most common way this virus is transmitted. One study indicated that HHV-8 is transmitted primarily in adults, which is consistent with a virus transmitted primarily through sexual contact.

There is no evidence thus far that HHV-8 has be transmitted through blood transfusions, although this route of infection cannot be totally ruled out. However, since many persons at risk for HHV-8 are already excluded from blood donations, we would expect the risk from blood transfusions to be low.

It is important to remember that even if a person is infected with HHV-8, this virus is usually harmless, unless there is severe damage to the immune system, like that seen in persons with AIDS. Testing for HHV-8 is currently only being done in research studies, and testing the general public is not necessary.

Because HHV-8 has only been recently discovered, the details of transmission are only now, being discovered. But all indications are that sexual transmission is most likely the predominate way this virus is transmitted, although non-sexual transmission is also possible. Because most people do not have severely damaged immune systems, most persons have no reason to worry about HHV-8 infection. However, in persons who have HIV, and others with weakened immune systems, it would be a good idea to try to avoid infection with this virus as much as possible.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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