Vaccinations protect against HPV

immunizationsHuman papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are about 40 types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause genital warts in both men and women. Others can increase a woman’s chance of cervical cancer and can cause other types of cancer in both men and women. However, a vaccine is available that can help prevent HPV infection.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that you can get from having sex with someone who is infected. You can get a STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.” At this time, about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and approximately 14 million people become infected each year.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and many people do not know they were ever infected. If HPV does not go away, however, then it is possible to develop genital warts or cancer. Unfortunately there is no way to know if you will develop cancer or other health problems if you have HPV.

Get vaccinated
One of the easiest ways you can reduce your risk of getting HPV is to get vaccinated. Two vaccines against HPV are available in the US. The vaccines are recommended for girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 12 years old.  Vaccination is also recommended for teen girls and young women through age 26 and teen boys through age 21, if they did not get the vaccine when they were younger.

Both vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. One vaccine also protects against two additional types of HPV that cause most genital warts. The HPV vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.

If you have HPV and get pregnant, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. These changes can be found during routine cervical cancer screening, such as a Pap smear. At your first prenatal checkup, your doctor will do a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer and other tests for vaginal infections.

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