CDC offers caution to prevent HPV

| January 24, 2014 | 1 Comment


Sgt. Terence Ellis and Zachary McCormic
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUNDS, Md. — The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S., with an estimated 79 million Americans currently infected and 14 million newly infected persons per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HPV is passed between partners through skin-to-skin contact, and nearly all sexually active people contract HPV at some point in their lives.

Many times, the infected person does not experience any symptoms of the HPV infection but can continue to transmit the virus to a sexual partner.

More than 40 types of HPV can affect the genitals, mouth and throat and can lead to genital warts or many types of cancers, including cervical. Additionally, in up to 90 percent of cases, the virus goes away on its own within two years, according to the CDC. When the virus stays, HPV can cause cells to become abnormal, leading to warts or cancer.

Until recently, the main ways to prevent HPV infection were condom use and limiting the number of sex partners. Now, with the introduction of the HPV vaccine, a safe, effective method to prevent infections is available.

Early Immunization Recommended

Vaccination is most effective before people become sexually active, so the CDC recommends HPV vaccines for all 11- and 12-year-olds. Gardisil (vaccine for males and females; active against four types of HPV) and Cervarix (vaccine for females only; active against two types of HPV) can be administered up to the age of 26. Both vaccines are administered in a three-shot series. The vaccines won’t treat an existing HPV infection.

After the introduction of the vaccine in 2007, studies conducted in Australia and the U.S. all identified a decrease in genital warts as a result of HPV in both males and females under 25.

Similar decreases among the Army active duty component, beginning in 2007, were reported in a recent Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, or MSMR.

While there is no test to determine one’s overall HPV status, the PAP test is used to screen for cervical cancer in females beginning at the age of 21. In females over the age of 30, an HPV test can be performed along with the PAP test.

No HPV test is available at this time for males, nor is there a test to identify HPV in the mouth or throat.

The MSMR reported 163 new cases of HPV per 10,000 person-years from 2000-2012.

Talk with your doctor

Consult with your primary care provider if you have any concerns about HPV or HPV vaccination, or to begin the vaccine series.

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