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Human Papillomavirus By Kiley Vujnich

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Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common form of sexually transmitted infection and at least 50% of the sexually active population will be infected at some point in their lives. Of these people, many never know they’ve had it because oftentimes they show no symptoms and the infection tends to clear up on its own. There are about 100 different strains of HPV viruses, only 40 of which are sexually transmitted.

HPV lives in the body’s epithelial cells, which line surfaces of the body leading in or out, like the mouth, throat, or genitals. It is spread through contact with infected skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids. Because many people never experience any symptoms and are most likely unaware they are infected, sexual partners might not be aware that they are spreading the virus. Thus, three-quarters of the sexually active, 15- 49-year-old population, have been infected at some point in their lives, and in the U.S. 20 million people are infected with HPV at any given time. Some strains of HPV are more serious than others. High-risk strains are usually the ones that lead to cervical cancer; HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers, whereas, low-risk strains lead to about 90% of genital warts.

The only way to prevent HPV is to abstain from sex. But, limiting the number of partners and remaining in monogamous relationships can lower your risk, however, since most people are infected and unaware that they are, there is always a risk. There are also two vaccines available to young women and one for men. Cervarix and Gardasil have been shown to protect women against cervical cancers and Gardasil also protects against genital warts and can be given to males. These vaccines only target certain strains of HPV; therefore one could still be infected with a different strain of the virus.

“CDC- Human Papillomavirus (HPV).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Jan. 2012.
“Information About Human Papillomavirus (HPV).” WebMD. WebMD, Inc., 8 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 Jan. 2012.


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