Protecting Young People from HPV Infection

Thursday, January 26, 2012 8:56 AM comments (1)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus simply spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are many different types of HPV (nearly 200). However, 40 of these types can infect the genital areas, mouth or throat of men and women during sexual contact.HPV

Over 80% of sexually active women and more than 50% of sexually active men will have acquired genital HPV infection at some point during their life. This makes genital HPV the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, most people who become infected remain unaware of it and infect their partners before they clear it on their own.

Some HPV types result in genital warts; other types are associated with cervical, vaginal, oral, anal and penile cancers. Fortunately, parents and patients can take important steps to help reduce HPV infection risks.

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers tips on reducing HPV infection risks:

  • Communicate: Talk to your children and teens about safe sex and STIs. Let them know that their risks can be reduced by abstinence (including oral sex), by delaying sexual initiation, by limiting the number of sex partners and by using latex condoms during sexual contact.
  • Vaccinate: HPV vaccine helps prevent the most common types of sexually acquired HPV. The vaccine is available for males and females ages 9-26. Three doses of the vaccine are recommended, and the greatest protection is achieved if all doses are completed before sexual initiation and exposure to HPV. Notably, 75% of new HPV infections occur between ages 15-24 years, and over half of these new infections occur within the first 3 years after sexual initiation.

Have you spoken with your child or his/her primary care physician about this vaccine?

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