Human Papillomavirus-HPV

A vaccine preventable illness

Identification and Definition

HPV is short for human papillomavirus which is commonly known for leading to cervical cancer. There are 40 different types of HPV that can affect the male or female genital area. HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and is also known for being the most commonly spread STI. The most prevalent types of HPV can be treated with vaccines.

History of HPV

The HPV virus was established in the 1960s but researchers weren't able to discover the different types of HPV strains until the 1980s. It was discovered that type 16 accounts for 50% of cervical cancer cases, and together type 16 and 18 is the cause for approximately 70% of cervical cancers. The first successfully licensed vaccine that could treat up to 4 types of HPV was introduced in 2006.

Signs and symptoms of HPV

There is no definitive way to test for HPV due to the nonexistent symptoms of the virus, so in many cases patients are screened for STIs and cervical cancer. HPV can be treated and will heal itself, but there have been some cases that can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

- Genital warts: a group of bumps in the genital area that is characterized by size, and shape which can be raised or sometimes flat, that resembles cauliflower.

- Cervical cancer: symptoms don't show until in advanced stages, because of this it is important that women 30+ years of age are regularly screened.


Transmission of HPV

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact whether that be vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. HPV can be spread even when symptoms are not apparent. Symptoms associated with HPV such as cervical cancer and genital warts aren't always immediate and can appear years after sexual contact.

Recommended control measures for HPV

There are a few ways that someone can lower the risks for getting HPV.

-Vaccinations: HPV vaccines are available to men and women. The vaccine is administered in 3 doses over 6 months and recommended for boys and girls ages 11-12, gay/bisexual men, and for persons with compromised immune systems.

-Screening for cervical cancer: Recommended for women ages 21-65 years old.

-If you are sexually active: Use condoms the correct way: this sometimes give a false sense of security due to the fact that HPV has the ability to infect ares not covered by a condom.

* It is also recommended that sexually active persons refrain from having multiple sex partners.