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There's a Really Good Chance You Have HPV

By Leah Groth ; Updated March 20, 2018

The human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, but you may be shocked to learn just how likely it is that you are walking around with it. According to a new survey, nearly half of American adults are infected with HPV. This means that it’s in your best interest to get educated about the disease right now.

A report published Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics claims that more than 42 percent of men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 have HPV. Even scarier, 20.4 percent of women and 25.1 percent of men are infected with high-risk strains. According to alternative studies, high-risk strains translate to 31,000 cases of cancer every year.

HPV is transmitted through anal, vaginal and oral sex and can infect the genitals, throat and mouth in both sexes. This can lead to a variety of warts, including: genital warts; common warts on your fingers and hands; plantar warts on the heels or balls of your feet; or flat warts, slightly raised growths on your elbows, face, knees, hands or wrists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most sexually active people will get HPV in their lifetime, but most cases go away on their own, so people never realize they even had it.

Researchers hope that these findings will encourage young adults and children to follow the recommendation of the CDC and take advantage of the two HPV vaccines currently deemed effective in preventing the virus.

“If we can get 11- and 12-year-olds to get the vaccine, we’ll make some progress. You need to give it before kids become sexually active, before they get infected,” Geraldine McQuillan, an epidemiologist at the CDC and lead author of the report, explained to the New York Times. “By the time they’re in their mid-20s, people are infected and it’s too late. This is a vaccine against cancer — that’s the message.”

While there is no treatment for HPV itself, there are ways to deal with the health issues, such as genital warts, that stem from it. While it is recommended that they are treated by a health care professional with a prescription, nonprescription treatments include various topical wart treatments, antiviral supplements, apple cider vinegar and herbs like goldenseal and tea tree oil. Pap tests for women are also crucially important because they can detect abnormalities, including cervical precancer.

The bottom line: Get vaccinated, practice safe sex and stay current with your doctor if you want to be in the 58 percent of adult Americans who aren’t currently infected with HPV!

What Do YOU Think?

To your knowledge, have you ever been infected with HPV? Have you gotten the HPV vaccine? How do you protect yourself against it?

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