In the last 48 hours or so, it is possible that one of the public health topics you may have heard about in the media is HPV–the Human Papillomavirus. However, public knowledge of this dangerous vaccine remains very thin. So, in this article, I will try to answer the following questions: what is HPV; what are the U.S. statistics like; and how can you prevent getting HPV?

HPV is a common viral infection. More than 100 types of HPV exist and its mode of transmission is mostly sexually but not always. It can also be transmitted through a cut/tear in the skin.

Data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that during 2011 to 2014, 7.3 percent of adults (18-69 years old) were diagnosed with oral HPV whereas a 4 percent had high risk HPV. During 2013 to 2014, 45.2 percent men (18-59 years old) had a strain of genital HPV and women had a rate of 39.9 percent. In the same years, high-risk genital HPV rate was 25.1 percent in men and 20.4 percent in women.

A person who encounters HPV may get any type of wart such as genital wart, plantar wart, flat wart and common wart. Some strains of HPV such as HPV 16 and 18 cause cancer.

Plantar warts can be prevented by wearing sandals in public pools, washrooms and locker rooms. It is very important for you to get vaccinated; to get screened; and to use proper contraception in order to protect you from cervical cancer. According to clinical guidelines, boys and girls should receive two doses of HPV vaccine between the age of 9 and 14. This vaccine should be ideally given before being sexually active.

There are catch-up vaccines for those who were not vaccinated when they were young. The catch-up vaccines are recommended for women through age 26 and for men up to the age of 21. The current guidelines for screening are the following:

For women between 21-29 years old: Pap smear is recommended every 3 years.
Women between 30-65 years old have 3 options:
1) Pap smear every 3 years;
2) Pap smear with HPV test every 5 years; or
3) HPV test alone every 5 years.

The treatment of HPV vaccine varies. Conservative treatments include salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, imiquimod and podofilox. Non-conservative methods of treatment include surgery, cryotherapy and electrocautery. So, it is essential to take precautions – get vaccinated and get screened at the right time. Also, use proper contraception when required.

You can learn more about your health and how you can protect and improve your health. For more information, take a look at what the Global Health and Education Projects (GHEP) and volunteers are doing at the Health, Environmental Education and Awareness (HEEA) program. At the HEEA day, we educate members of our community on the relationship between the environment and public health. Experts share nuggets of life-saving health and environment information in a joyful and entertaining atmosphere.

I can tell you that human health is truly complex. But there is hope. Obtaining and empowering ourselves with the latest information and research on different health conditions is important for protecting your health. There are a lot of valuable information published by health care providers, researchers and other experts from around the world. You can read free and updated information on health issues affecting mothers, women, children and families and other health issues such as HIV/AIDS at GHEP’s global health journal on maternal and child health and aids. You can also read other interesting articles on public health, medical research, and how research is changing our lives at the journal of translational medical research and public health known as IJTRansmed. Finally, you can also write and share your comments on any health issue that you’d like to share. You never know who might be saved by reading that little piece of information that you write.

By: Neha Shah Ramjuttun, MBBS, Adv. PG Dipl GMCH, MPH (C). Dr. Ramjuttun is a candidate in Master of Public Health at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She completed her medical degree from Xi’an Jiaotong University, China and is a registered MD in Mauritius. She holds an Advanced PG Diploma in Global Maternal and Child Health from James Lind Institute in New York. She is an Editorial Assistant with the Global Health and Education Projects Inc (GHEP) where she works closely with the Editors of the International Journal of MCH and AIDS (IJMA) and the International Journal of Translational Medical Research and Public Health (IJTMRPH) and writes blogs for GHEP and its affiliates.