There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), and more than 40 types that can infect the genitals, mouth, and throat. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and some strains can lead to genital warts and cervical and other types of cancer. Anyone who has sexual contact with another person is at risk of getting HPV.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Most people who are infected with HPV will not experience any symptoms and will clear the virus without even knowing they have been infected.
For some people, an HPV infection does not clear but instead causes abnormalities in the cells it has infected. Most of the time these changes occur gradually. Warts can take months to develop, and cancer can take years. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer caused by HPV, but HPV can also cause genital, anal, and oral cancers.
HPV can also cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), a condition in which warts grow in the throat. These warts can sometimes block the airway, resulting in a hoarse voice or difficulty breathing.
How can I get HPV?
Anyone who has sexual relations can get HPV. HPV is so common that it is estimated that up to 75 percent of people who have sexual relationships will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some time in their lives.
There are several types of HPV, and it’s possible to be infected by more than one type. It may also be possible to be infected by the same type of HPV more than once.
What vaccines are available for HPV?
Gardasil®9 provides protection against nine HPV types to prevent cervical cancer, adenocarcinoma, vulvar, vaginal, anal cancers and their precursors. In males, HPV is recommended for the prevention of anal neoplasia, anal cancer and anogenital warts.
How many shots will I need?
You need a series of three shots of Gardasil®9 over a six-month schedule.
Will I need a booster?
Studies are ongoing to determine the length of time Gardasil®9 will provide protection and whether a booster dose will be needed.
How can I prevent HPV?
The best way to prevent HPV is to get the vaccine before you are sexually active. However, if you are a sexually active woman under age 50, you should consider vaccination because you may not be infected with the strains of HPV that Gardasil® protects against. After you are vaccinated you should continue to get Pap smear tests.
Having multiple partners increases your risk of HPV infection. Practicing safer sex, including condom use, can lower your risk of acquiring an STI. However condoms do not provide full protection against HPV, which can infect areas that a condom does not cover.
What is the treatment for HPV?
Although there is no treatment for an HPV infection, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause.
Find out more information on HPV from our Vancouver Travel Clinic or any of our other 18 Travel Clinic locations.