Health officials have further shut down reports that this year’s Coachella festival was linked to a spike in herpes cases.
- Read more: The biggest talking points of Coachella 2019
It was being reported last week (April 25) that according to HerpAlert, an STD diagnosis app, there had been a 2,083% increase in reported herpes cases in Indio, California and the surrounding area since the first weekend of Coachella.
Jose Arballo, public information officer for the Riverside Department of Public Health, later claimed that his agency had not seen any evidence pointing to these reports being true.
“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,” he said.
Now, officials from Riverside Dept of Public Health have confirmed that there had been no increase in reports of herpes following the dual-weekend event.
Speaking to The Blast, they explained that three signs are used to determine an outbreak. These are an increase in reports to the main disease control centre, an increase in tests at local clinics situated near the Coachella Valley, and an increase in reports to their STD control branch.
They went on to say that companies such as HerpAlert can serve as a useful resource, but that none of the information gathered by the app was fact-checked or official.
They also echoed previous claims that herpes would take a number of days to present symptoms.
“My first reaction is that the whole thing is kind of silly because symptons don’t typically show up in 24 hours,” Dr. Jill Grimes, a board-certified family physician and author of Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs, previously told Billboard. “It can take anywhere from two to 12 days for symptoms to appear, although the average is three to four days.”
Admitting that it’s not uncommon for large events to see an increase in cases, but noted a 20-times spike seemed suspiciously high, Grimes added: “Typically it’s a situation where a person hooks up on the weekend and starts having symptoms on a Tuesday.”
Billboard also spoke to HerpAlert’s medical director, Lynn Marie Morski, who has since clarified the company’s findings.
“There were many coming to get medication to treat and prevent flares,” she said, stating that the 1,105 enquiries made on the app were not necessarily new cases, but people using the platform for various other reasons. “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. 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.”
Founded two years ago, the way in which HerpAlert works is users upload photos of their infections for doctors to diagnose. Then they can issue prescriptions to treat the very common virus.