“Vac Facts”: HPV – Roughly one in four Americans have Human Papillomavirus

It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but it’s one that deserves attention. An article recently appeared indicating that in 2010, as many as 40 percent of parents surveyed have bypassed or plan on forgoing having their children get the HPV vaccine. Reasons include:

  • Their children not being sexually active
  • Safety concerns and side effects
  • The vaccine is “not needed or not necessary”

However, nearly 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, with about 14 million people becoming infected every year.  According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 315 million Americans. The math is simple but scary: roughly 1 in 4 Americans are infected with HPV.

In fact, HPV is so common that, according to the CDC, “nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.”

What exactly is the HPV? What health problems can HPV cause? Who should get the HPV vaccine? Read on for more information from the Centers for Disease Control.

What is HPV?

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is spread through sexual contact.
  • There are approximately 40 types of genital HPV.
  • Some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other kinds of cancer in both men and women.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it.
  • In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV within two years.
  • There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop health problems.
  • Some types of HPV can cause genital warts in both males and females; some rare types can cause warts in the throat.
  • Other HPV types can cause normal cells in the body to turn abnormal and might lead to cancer over time.


  • Vaccines can protect against some of the most common types of HPV.
    • It works by preventing the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
    • HPV is three dose vaccine.
      • Important to get all three doses long before any sexual activity as someone can become infected during their first sexual contact.
      • Vaccination is most effective when given at 11 or 12 years old; higher antibodies are produced at this age.
      • The HPV vaccination is safe and effective.
        • No serious side effects; common mild side effects include:
          • Pain at injection site
          • Fever
          • Headache
          • Nausea
  • For those who are sexually active, condoms may lower the risk of HPV infection.
  • Abstinence is the only way to avoid HPV.

Screening for HPV:

  • Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent, with regular screening and follow-up. Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
    • The Pap test (or Pap smear) helps find pre-cancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
    • The HPV test checks for the virus that can cause these cell changes on the cervix.
  • Currently, there is no routine screening test recommended for other HPV-related health effects, such as genital warts or other HPV-associated cancers .

Please visit the CDC website for more information.

Image: CDC

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Read 2 Comments

  1. As a paper published in Science and Engineering Ethics says, “Pharmaceutical companies fund the bulk of clinical research that is carried out on medications. Poor outcomes from these studies can have negative effects on sales of medicines. Previous research has shown that company funded research is much more likely to yield positive outcomes than research with any other sponsorship.” [1]

    Don’t you think it would be interesting to note the percentage of studies done on the safety and efficacy of Gardasil that have been either funded by Merck Pharmaceuticals, that have at least one author that is a Merck employee, or both? If there is an exceedingly high number of such studies in comparison to 3rd party studies…one must ask whether there is a significant issue of bias involved.

    And, whether such studies actually amount to marketing on Merck pharmaceutical’s behalf.

    Moreover, don’t you agree that a HPV remedy might do more good in a world where there is no HPV pandemic, and where 90% of HPV infections go away without medical intervention of any kind?


    [1] Lexchin J. “Those Who Have the Gold Make the Evidence: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Biases the Outcomes of Clinical Trials of Medications.” Science and Engineering Ethics, February 15, 2011

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