Mar 112009
 
Authors: Natasha Pepperl

As part of HPV Awareness Day Wednesday afternoon, local health experts revealed to CSU students that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease and currently, over six million contract it yearly.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 20 million Americans currently live with human papillomavirus and that the disease is most common among adolescents and young adults.

“People are honestly not educated about (HPV),” said event coordinator Marissa Midyet. “It’s really important to have the whole picture,” she added, imploring students to be aware that statistics show every two out of three women will contract HPV at some point in their lives.

According to http://thehpvtest.com, HPV is a common virus that infects the skin and mucous membranes. Out of the about 100 types of the virus, approximately 30 are spread through genital contact, most commonly through sexual intercourse.

It is estimated that 80 percent of all women — and 50 percent of men and women combined — will get one or more types of “genital” HPV at some point in their lives.

And while this is true, the body’s immune system usually fights off the infection, and most with HPV never suffer from any problems as a result.

Poudre Valley Hospital Infection Specialist Paul Poduska said Center for Disease Control data shows that 75 percent of new HPV infections occur in people ages 15 to 24.

The CDC also said most infected people are unaware they have this virus and can easily, and unknowingly transfer the disease to their sexual partners.

“HPV is extremely contagious,” Hartshorn Health Center nurse Lisa Duggan said.

Doctors at the panel explained that the disease’s transmittance is not limited to sexual intercourse, but can be spread through any type of genital contact and condoms do not ensure protection against the spread of HPV.

“It’s pretty obvious HPV is going to be on campus,” said Midyet, who said only 10 percent of sexually active CSU students wear condoms according to recent surveys.

The panel also said having multiple sexual partners, smoking and leaving sexual secretion on the skin for long periods of time all raise the risk of contracting HPV.

While Duggan said two of the 15 “high risk” HPV strains cause most cervical cancers and two others cause genital warts, women can get the vaccine GARDASIL, which protects against these specific strains of HPV.

“(GARDASIL’s) very effective and it’s also very safe,” said Duggan, who encouraged all women who are sexually active to get the vaccine, which consists of three shots administered over a period of six months.

According to its Website, GARDASIL is the “only cervical cancer vaccine” that helps protect against “high risk” HPV strains. The vaccine is recommended for girls and young women ages nine to 26 who are sexually active.

Local doctor Tom Dieririger went on to say that though there is no FDA approved HPV test for men, they can have and pass on the disease without experiencing symptoms. Derringer added that doctors are also unable to tell HPV infected women when their virus is gone or no longer contagious.

“Probably the biggest problem of this vaccine is that it is expensive,” she said.

Hartshorn Health Center charges $140 for each shot and the Vaccination Assistance Program can help uninsured or struggling students pay for the shots, Duggan said.

Staff writer Natasha Pepperl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Important Facts about HPV

-Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that infects the skin and mucous membranes.

-Over six million people contract different types of HPV annually.

-It is estimated that 80 percent of all women — and 50 percent of men and women combined –will get one or more types of “genital” HPV at some point in their lives.

-The immune system commonly fights off the virus and most people will not suffer from any form of HPV.

-Two out of 15 “high risk” HPV strains can result in cervical cancer

-GARDASIL is the only cervical cancer vaccine that helps protect against four types of HPV.

(Information courtesy of http://thehpvtest.com and http//www.gardasil.com.)

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