5 Things You Need to Know About HPV - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 17, 2016

5 Things You Need to Know About HPV

Girls aren’t the only ones whose health can benefit from the vaccine – it is recommended boys get the vaccine too.

Girls aren’t the only ones whose health can
benefit from the vaccine – it is recommended
boys get the vaccine too.

There is an epidemic of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – it is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with nearly 80 million Americans currently infected.

And it isn’t just one virus – HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses; about 40 of can infect the genital areas.

Here’s what you need to know about the virus and how you can protect yourself and loved ones from HPV and its serious effects.

1. It’s Sexually Transmitted

The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact via vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone infected with HPV, even if the infected person doesn’t have any signs or symptoms. Any sexually active individual can get infected with HPV, with symptoms in some cases never developing until years after the initial infection.

2. It Can Cause Cancer

The longer HPV is in the body, the higher your risk of developing health problems, including cancer. This virus is most widely known for its link to cervical cancer, but it can also cause cancers of the mouth, throat, anus and penis.

3. You Can Have It And Never Know

Despite how common HPV is, many people don’t know they have it. That’s because in many cases, the body will naturally fight the virus off without the individual experiencing any symptoms or developing health problems.

However, in some cases, the body isn’t capable of fighting it off. If it’s the type of HPV associated with cervical or other cancers, and no warts appear, there may be no other symptoms to notice.

4. It’s Preventable

Many of the health issues caused by an HPV infection – including cancer – could be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine. The recommended age to receive it is at age 11 or 12; this gives the body time to develop an immune response before they ever can be exposed to the virus through sexual activity. Plus, the vaccine has been shown to produce a more robust immune response during the preteen years.

The vaccine is given in a series of three shots, with the second injection given one to two months after the first and the third given six months after the first one. It’s advised to receive the full HPV vaccine in order to be effectively protected in the future.

HPV, in addition to other STDs and unplanned pregnancies, can be prevented by practicing safe sex – using condoms, having fewer sexual partners, delaying intercourse and limiting it to mutually monogamous relationships may reduce your risk of contracting HPV.

5. The Vaccine Isn’t Just For Girls – Boys Can Get It Too

For many years, there has been a lot of emphasis on girls getting the HPV vaccine since it could prevent them from getting infected with the strain that causes cervical cancer. But girls aren’t the only ones whose health can benefit from the vaccine – it is recommended boys get the vaccine too.

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