What is HPV?
HPV is a very common virus. About 3 out of 4 sexually active people will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV is highly contagious, and it affects both women and men. It can spread through genital, oral, and anal sex, and by skin to skin contact. This means it can spread when people’s bare skin touches even when they don’t actually have sex. Some people have no symptoms so they don’t realize they have HPV – this means they might unknowingly give other people HPV.
There are more than 100 types of HPV that can spread from one person to another. Each type has a number assigned to it. Lower risk types (types 6 and 11) can cause genital warts while high risk types (16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) may cause cancer.
Each year in Ontario, HPV causes:
- 254 deaths;
- 1,090 new cases of cancer;
- 14, 666 new cases of genital warts.
How can HPV be prevented?
The only 100% effective way to prevent HPV is not to have any sexual contact with another person whatsoever.
There are several things you can do to lower your risk for HPV besides avoiding sex entirely. The more sexual partners you have the higher your risk, so limit your number of partners. Condoms can reduce your risk; however, they do not guarantee complete protection because HPV can spread by skin-to-skin contact beyond the covered area.
Besides not having sex at all, the HPV vaccine is the most effective way to prevent HPV. The vaccine given to grade 7 students (Gardasil®9) protects against 9 types of HPV: types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. The vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing infection caused by these types of HPV. The vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity begins.
Sexually active women should still have regular Pap tests even if they get the HPV vaccine. Pap tests are an important part of staying healthy!
Are there any side effects from the HPV vaccine?
Many people have short-term mild side-effects like those that happen with other needles: redness, tenderness and swelling where the needle was given. Other side effects may include fever, headache, dizziness, tiredness, and feeling sick to one’s stomach. For more information about the vaccine, check out Other Website Links. Allergic reactions like hives, wheezing, or swelling of the face and mouth are extremely rare. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.
Other Website Links: