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HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

HPV and HPV Vaccination

BACKGROUND
  • Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually-transmitted virus in the U.S.
  • There are 40 types of HPV which are sexually transmitted, and cause genital warts, cervical and other cancers in women, and anal and penile cancer in men.
  • There are more than 20 million Americans 15-49 years of age infected with genital HPV.
  • Each year, more than 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, many of whom are younger than 40 years old. Between 3,000 and 4,000 women will die from this cancer each year.
  • Men can transmit HPV to women through sexual contact. Vaccinating males, especially before the age of sexual activity, helps protect both men and women from disease.
  • HPV infection can result in cancer of the cervix and other female genital cancers years later.(In males, persistent infection can progress to penile cancer.

HPV TYPES

  • HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18 are among the most common types in the U.S. and are responsible for more than 90% of genital warts and 70% of cervical cancers. HPV vaccines protect against some or all of these types

CAUSE

  • Virus: Human Papillomavirus

COMPLICATIONS

  • Genital warts are spread to sexual partners, just like other sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea.
  • A pregnant woman with genital warts can give the warts to her baby, resulting in warts in the baby's windpipe. This can cause serious lung and breathing problems in the baby (treatment is often repeated surgery).
  • Genital cancers include cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva; penis cancer in men; and cancer of the anus in men and women. 

TRANSMISSION (Spread)

  • The virus spreads from one person to another through sexual contact: genital-to-genital (intercourse and even rubbing), oral-to-genital, anal-to-genital and manual manipulation.
  • Spread can occur from female to male, male to female, female to female, male to male.
  • Genital HPV (including warts too small to be seen with a naked eye) can spread in the absence of your knowing that you have HPV infection.
  • In fact, there is no way to know that you are infected with the virus until you get genital warts or cancer. HOWEVER, a routine PAP test can detect the early changes which occur in the cervix before the onset of cancer. Ask your doctor about the PAP test.

PREVENTION

  • HPV vaccines protect against some or all of the four types (6, 11, 16, 18) of HPV which are associated with most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.
    • HPV vaccination is similar to but NOT the same as infant shots.
    • HPV vaccinations require several doses, usually one to six months apart.
    • Vaccination protects you from major HPV types if given before infection with HPV. (Reminder - once you begin sexual activity you are at risk for HPV infection).
    • Vaccinations are available at your local health department clinic or from your physician.
    • Side effects are generally mild and short in duration (ask the physician or nurse for more details).     

WHO SHOULD BE VACCINATED

  • Females ages 9-26 years of age, but especially before the beginning of sexual activity.
  • Males 9 to 26 years of age can also be vaccinated to prevent genital warts. Vaccination is most effective before first sexual contact.
  • Children as young as 9 may be vaccinated.
  • Remember, THE SOONER, THE BETTER, NOT LATER.

More information

This page last reviewed on Dec 4, 2013 report errors on this page e-mail email this page print print 

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