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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
& Genital Warts
Sexually Transmitted Disease Facts
Type of Infection: There are many types of human papilloma virus, several of which can result in genital warts (Condyloma acuminata) and most cervical cancers. High-risk strains include the following types — 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, 69, 73, 82.
Prevalence of Human Papilloma Virus: In the United States, 80% of all young sexually active women are infected with the human papilloma virus. Genital warts are more likely in women with early onset of sexual activity, multiple sex partners, and a higher frequency of casual partners.
Modes of Transmission for Human Papilloma Virus: Vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV is highly contagious. If one person has HPV most doctors don't bother testing the sexual partner, because they almost always have it too. HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Symptoms of Human Papilloma Virus: Painless fleshy, cauliflower-like warts develop on and inside the genitals, anus and throat. However, most people who become infected with HPV will not have any symptoms at all.
Treatment for Human Papilloma Virus: There is no known cure. Warts can be suppressed by chemicals, freezing, laser therapy and surgery. Imiquimod is manufactured as a 5% cream called Aldara, which may be helpful.
Possible Consequences of Human Papilloma Virus for the Infected Person: HPV is the virus that causes genital warts. Some strains of the virus are strongly associated with cervical cancer as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis and anus. In fact, HPV is the cause of more than 90 percent of all cervical cancer, which kills about 5,000 American women every year.
Possible Consequences of Human Papilloma Virus for the Fetus and Newborn: Infants exposed to the virus in the birth canal can develop oral HPV, resulting in warts in the throat which can obstruct the airway and must be removed. If the mother has HPV, the infant is at increased risk of contracting HPV from the mother.
Prevention of Human Papilloma Virus: Abstaining from vaginal, anal and oral sex with an infected person is the only effective means of prevention. Latex condoms provide little protection against contracting the disease during sex. Smoking ceasation will reduce the risk of HPV and cervical tumors. Annual Pap smears are critical to detect the disease in the earyly stages. There is now a vaccine that will prevent contaction of many strains of the HPV virus and subesquent cancer of the cervix.
Source: W Cates, "Reproductive Tract Infections," In Hatcher et al, Contraceptive Technology, Ardent Media, 2005.
Photo Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of STD Prevention, "Condyloma Acuminata HPV," STD Clinical Slides, 2003, www.cdc.gov/std/training/clinicalslides. Hardin MD/University of Iowa and DermNet.com, www.lib.uiowa.edu/Hardin/md/dermnet/genwarts2.html.