This review summarizes the current knowledge pertaining to Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) epidemiology and transmission. Since the identification of KSHV twenty years ago, it is now known to be associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), primary effusion lymphoma, and multicentric Castleman’s disease. Many studies have been conducted to understand its epidemiology and pathogenesis and their results clearly show that the worldwide distribution of KSHV is uneven. Some geographical areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean region and the Xinjiang region of China, are endemic areas, but Western Europe and United States have a low prevalence in the general population. This makes it imperative to understand the risk factors associated with acquisition of infection. KSHV can be transmitted via sexual contact and non-sexual routes, such as transfusion of contaminated blood and tissues transplants, or via saliva contact. There is now a general consensus that salivary transmission is the main route of transmission, especially in children residing in endemic areas. Therefore, there is a need to better understand the sources of transmission to young children. Additionally, lack of animal models to study transmission, gold standard serological assay and the lack of emphasis on endemic KS research has hampered the efforts to further delineate KSHV transmission in order to design effective prevention strategies.
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