Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection world wide. Each year it causes one million new cases of genital warts, two million cases of cervical dysplasia and 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer. In the United States alone there are over 4000 deaths per year from cervical cancer.
HPV is spread by sexual contact — genital, oral and manual (“heavy petting”). Condoms reduce the risk, but are not fully protective. Most individuals are asymptomatic and unknowingly spread the virus. Forty percent of women age 16 to 24 carry the virus and about thirty percent of men in the 16 to 24 age group carry the virus as well. Female adolescents and teens are more vulnerable to develop disease because the epithelial cervical cells are immature.
The “low risk” types of HPV cause anogenital warts, while the “high risk” types are linked to genital, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers. These cancers manifest themselves between the ages of 20 to 50, and may begin as an HPV infection acquired as an adolescent.
By the end of the first year of high school twenty five percent of students are sexually active and this rises to seventy five percent by the end of four years. Consequently, teens, both male and female, have a high incidence of HPV infection.
Given this information, HPV vaccination is strongly recommended for both male and female adolescents and teens. There are over twenty types of “high risk” HPV. Some of these types, but not all, are covered by the current HPV vaccine. Preventive care such as routine yearly examinations and Pap smears are important as they help to identify problems associated with HPV.
We at Lake Shore Pediatrics recommend that you vaccinate your adolescent/teenage daughter and/or SON. The first vaccine in the series can be given any time after age 9. The second vaccine is given one to two months later and the final shot six months later. There is no maximum interval between vaccines. Fainting is the most common side effect after vaccination,and it is recommended that a patient should be observed for fifteen minutes after receiving the vaccine.
Please feel free to ask questions about this important vaccine at your next visit.