Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

What it is:  Genital human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States.  More than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms, and go away on their own.

How it spreads:  HPV is transmitted by direct contact, usually sexual, with an infected person.  HPV transmission can be reduced, but not eliminated with the use of physical barriers, such as condoms.

What it causes:  HPV can cause cervical cancer in women.  Cervical cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the world.  HPV is also associated with several less common cancers, such as vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal cancer in both men and women. It can also cause genital warts and warts in the throat.

What to do:  There are currently three types of HPV vaccine available.  Gardasil 4 also known as HPV4 contains protection against four types of HPV and both women and men are eligible to receive this vaccine.  Gardasil 9 is Merck's newest version of HPV vaccine and covers 9 strains of HPV.  Gardasil 9 or HPV 9 is for both males and females.  Cervarix, known as HPV2, contains protection for two types of HPV and is only available to women.

Vaccine protection from either Gardasil or Cervarix is recommended for all females at 11-12 years of age, with either type of vaccine given as a series of three doses.  The vaccination series can be started beginning at age nine years at the medical providers discretion.  All females 13-26 years of age are recommended to start or complete a series of three doses of vaccine.
Vaccine protection for males with the Gardasil three-dose series may be given beginning at age 9 through 26 years of age to reduce their likelihood of genital warts.

Ideally, vaccine should be administered before potential exposure to HPV through sexual contact.