Coachella Herpes Spike: Record 250 Cases Per Day Reported Near Festival

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Coachella. Photo: Randy Locklair/Flickr

Reported cases of herpes have broken records in California, spiking up to 20 times higher than normal in towns surrounding the famed Coachella music festival. 

Coachella is held annually at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, in the Coachella Valley of the Colorado Desert near Los Angeles and San Diego. This year’s event ran from April 12 to April 21.

The herpes tracking app, HerpAlert, reported a massive outbreak believed to be associated with Coachella.

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There are two types of herpes — oral and genital — and the disease is not always sexually transmitted, ABC7 reported. Practicing safe sex and not sharing food and drinks can reduce exposure to both forms.

More than half Americans have oral herpes, and about one in six has genital herpes, according to Planned Parenthood.

A spokesperson for HerpAlert told a local CBS affiliate that the app usually gets 12 cases per day max from the area. App users self-report potential cases in return for access to doctors who can give them a full diagnosis and prescribe medications to deal with the virus’s side effects. During Coachella, the app got at least 250 requests for herpes meds per day during the music festival. Most requests came from the festival area and surrounding towns where festival-goers were staying during the event, Daily Wire reported.

Health officials did not report a similar spike in herpes diagnoses around the Los Angeles area. Southern California health officials said the anonymous nature of the app might make herpes carriers more likely to report it to HerpAlert than to local health officials that they have to have face-to-face contact with.

People who already carry the herpes virus can experience a flare-up after
sharing drinks and cigarettes. Getting too much sun and not enough sleep can also make them susceptible to the contagious disease.

“This virus gets such a negative connotation because of its association with intercourse, but people live with this virus every single day,” said Dr. Cedrick “Jamie” Rutland. 

HerpAlert’s previous record was 60 cases in one day, according to New York Post. It happened on Oscars weekend during the Academy Awards.