The virus has about 100 types, and each type has a number.
Approximately 40 HPV types are sexually transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse through the mucous membranes and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. (Even a condom does not give a 100% protection guarantee.) HPV can be passed on by an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy.
HPV 16 and 18 are known to be high-risk HPV strains because they cause about 75% of cervical cancers. Luckily, they are not as widespread as the others are.
About 60 HPV types penetrating into the human cells can cause appearance of papillomas (warts), most commonly on hands or feet.
Sometimes, HPV is asymptomatic, and the person does not even know they are a carrier.
A person can be infected after contact with the skin of the virus carrier or through shared use of personal hygiene products (if there are micro-injuries on the skin).
Pay attention to your health. When it comes to the symptoms of HPV, consult your doctor for professional advice.
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How to avoid the human papillomavirus (HPV)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common infections among sexually active people, and it is the primary cause of cervical cancer.
Choosing condoms as contraception during casual sexual encounters reduces the risk of HPV infection.
However, this method doesn’t provide 100% protection. HPV can be also transmitted by skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse.
One of the most effective prevention methods is vaccination. There are two types of HPV vaccines which are aimed at the most carcinogenic HPV types.
The World Health Organization recommends vaccinating girls between 9 and 14 years of age before they become sexually active.
Males can also be vaccinated to reduce transmission of HPV in the population.
You can discuss vaccinating against HPV with your doctor.
It is important that you regularly visit the cervical screening services and do not miss checkups. It might help detect cervical changes at an early stage.
There are over 100 known types of HPV. However, not all of them are equally dangerous.
To prevent the most serious consequence of HPV infection — cervical cancer — two vaccines have been developed for the most high-risk HPV types.
One contains the viral particles of four HPV types (6, 11, 16, and 18), while the other contains particles of types 16 and 18 only.
The World Health Organization recommends vaccinating girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years. It’s best done before they can get infected with the virus (i.e., before becoming sexually active).
This is because the immune response to the vaccine is the highest in this age group. Different countries have different approaches defining the age when the vaccination against HPV can be started.
There is no upper age limit for HPV vaccination, although the response of the immune system is getting weaker with increasing age.
The vaccination can also be good for women who are sexually active but not infected by HPV, as well as for women who are already infected but only by certain types of the virus.
In this case, the vaccine may prevent infection with other types of HPV.
For example, even if you have already been infected with the type of HPV that causes genital warts, you can still protect yourself against the types that can cause cancer since you may not be infected with those types yet.
Consult your doctor to learn if you have indications for the HPV vaccination.