What is HPV?

Within the last several years, we have been made aware, via TV commercials, about a virus which has been proven to cause ovarian cancer. It is called HPV or human papillomavirus. Let’ explore this virus in depth.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. Not only is it passed on through sexual intercourse, but through a simple touch of the skin. It is estimated that more that 50% of people who have had sex will have contracted HPV in their lifetime.

As you may have heard during these commercial announcements, HPV has been around for quite a while. Moreover, most of us may even have the virus, but it has not revealed itself in most cases. It is not a virus relegated to women; men can contract it as well. The problem is that anyone may have it even if they haven’t had sex for years.

Some may ask, “Well, if there are no signs or indications, how do I know I have it?” The answer is there are many types of HPV and not all of them create health problems. While some may cause genital warts or cervical cancer, it wholly depends on the HPV type.

There is no cure for HPV, but there is now a test to determine if you have it. The FDA recently approved the HPV test for woman over 30 years old. In addition, it is also recommended that in addition to the HPV test, yearly Pap tests continue.

There is also a new HPV vaccine called Gardasil. What it does is mirror the disease and creates a resistance to it. Please note: the vaccine is not a live or a dead virus. It simply prevents infection in several of the HPV types. The only problems associated with the vaccine are slight fevers, redness or irritation at the site where the vaccine has been injected. Further, Gardasil has shown to be between 95 and 100 per cent effective.

It is recommended that every girl and women between the ages of 9 and 26 receive this vaccine, especially for those who have not yet become sexually active. The shots are given in three increments. After the first shot, the second is given two months later, and the third six months later, respectively.

The vaccine, at least for now, lasts for a couple of years. Since studies are still ongoing, the FDA will most likely advise the efficacy of administering another shot and when.

Finally, it is important to note that the vaccine will not cure HPV. It may protect you from getting one type of HPV as opposed to another. It is strongly recommended that you receive this vaccine as soon as possible.