New research on human papillomavirus (HPV) was released on June 19 showing the significant impact that the HPV vaccine has had on reducing the infection. A study compared HPV infection rates in girls (ages 14 to 19) before and after the vaccine first became available in 2006.
The infection rate for the HPV strains prevented by the vaccine dropped 56 percent between 2006 and 2010. These results are better than expected and may suggest that unvaccinated individuals are benefiting from the vaccine.
This research has been sparking dialogue on how to increase vaccination in adolescents. Be sure to join the conversation and encourage other parents to vaccinate their daughters and sons against HPV. Learn more about the HPV vaccine.
Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.
A 2003 study showed that by 9th grade roughly 28 percent of females and 38 percent of males have had sexual intercourse. That same study showed that by 12th grade those percentages increase to over 63 percent for both males and females. This is why it is so important to vaccinate adolescents with the HPV vaccine. Parents need to remember that even if their daughter refrains from sexual contact until married, there is a good possibility that the man that she marries has not, and could pass on HPV to his new bride.
In most cases, the body fights off HPV naturally meaning that infected cervical cells revert back to normal. Sometimes, low-risk types of HPV can cause visible changes that take the form of genital warts; if a high-risk HPV infection is not cleared by the immune system, it can linger for many years and turn abnormal cells into cancer over time. About 10 percent of women with high-risk HPV on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer. Similarly, when high-risk HPV lingers and infects the cells of the penis, anus, vulva, or vagina it can cause cancer in those areas. But these cancers are much less common than cervical cancer.
Genital HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she has had sex. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus to their partner. Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery. In these cases, the child may develop warts in the throat or voice box – a deadly and incurable condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP).
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