Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is a very common virus that can cause many types of cancers, including cervical, penile, anal, oropharyngeal cancer, and genital warts.

HPV can infect both males and females. If not immunized, about 3 out of 4 people will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

What are symptoms of HPV?

Most people with HPV do not get any signs or symptoms and may not know that they have been infected. They can pass the virus to others without even knowing it. Some people find out after they develop genital warts or abnormal cervical cancer screening during their Pap test.

How does it spread?

  • Skin-to-skin contact, including unprotected sexual activity.
  • A pregnant person with HPV can pass it to a newborn baby during delivery.

How can I prevent HPV?

The best way to prevent HPV is getting the HPV vaccine. The HPV9 vaccine (Gardasil®9) also protects against the same types of HPV as the HPV4 vaccine. In addition, it protects against another five HPV types (type 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58). Thus, the HPV9 vaccine prevents up to an additional 14 percent of anogenital cancers.

It is important to complete the entire vaccine series. Depending on when the series is started it is a 2 or 3 dose series. You cannot get an HPV infection from the vaccine. The HPV vaccine will not treat an existing HPV infection.

As well, protect yourself by using condoms or dental dams every time you have sex.

Are there side effects from HPV vaccine?

Gardasil is very safe and effective. The most common side effects include arm pain, swelling or redness. Serious reactions are rare.

How do I get the vaccine?

Check with your primary health care provider. The Ontario government covers the cost for HPV vaccination for many population groups. For example, grade 7 students are eligible to receive the HPV vaccine series for free through the school-based immunization program until the end of Grade 12.

The vaccine can be purchased privately with a prescription and the cost may be covered through some private insurance plans. Upon request and with prescription, the WECHU dispenses the HPV vaccine at cost to local health care providers.

For more information contact the Health Unit Extension 1420 or speak to your health care provider.

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