How Common Is Human Papillomavirus
What is Human Papillomavirus?
HPV, a sexually transmitted disease primarily spread through genital contact, is extremely common in sexually active adults and teenagers. Fifty percent of all sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. At present, there are approximately 20 million people infected with HPV with an average of 6 million Americans getting a new case each year. HPV, or human papillomavirus, refers to a group of viruses of which there are more than 100 different variations. A large about of them (over 30) are transmitted sexually and typically affect the genital or anal area. A predominant amount of people who contact HPV will never know they have it due to a lack of symptoms and the body's ability to eliminate the infection on its own.
What are the risks of HPV?
Not all people will be so lucky. Some of the strains can lead to cancer in the penis, anus, vagina, vulva and cervix. Others can cause cell abnormalities or genital warts. Genital warts caused by HPV are soft and pinkish or flesh-colored, often appearing in the shape of a cauliflower. They can occur on the vulva, or inside the vagina up to the cervix in women and on the penis or scrotum in man. Occasionally, they can also appear on the anus, groin area or thighs. Warts can appear at any time after sexual contact with an infected party, usually taking a few weeks up to months. In some instances, the warts may never appear, but the virus can still be spread. The surest way to prevent HPV is to refrain from sexual intercourse or to limit sexual activity to one monogamous partner. Condoms can help prevent the spread of the disease, but since HPV can also affect areas of the genitalia that are not covered by a condom, it is not a sure way to avoid infection. Since HPV is so common and since most carriers of the disease are unaware that they have it (especially men, who are harder to diagnose), the risk of infection rises dramatically as a person increases in number of sexual partners. It is very rare, though possible, for a woman with HPV to pass the disease to her baby.
Treatment for HPV
There is no known treatment for HPV once it has been contracted. Recently, a vaccine has been approved for HPV, but it is only a preventative vaccine and will not cure those who already have it. Some may never know they have it, and oftentimes, the symptoms may disappear and the virus leave the body on its own. Certain medications can aid in the event of an outbreak, and visible warts can be treated with medicines or occasionally removed.