Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults are infected with HPV

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NEW YORK -- Nearly half of U.S. adults have been infected with the human papillomavirus or HPV, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

A report released by the NCHS last week says about 45 percent of Americans ages 18 to 59 had some form of the virus.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts.

An infectious disease specialist with IU Health says the results of the study aren’t surprising.

“The prevalence is about what we would expect in individuals that have not been vaccinated,” Dr. Aaron Ermel said.

There are more than 150 HPV viruses. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said most sexually active people will get HPV.

Ermel says what’s more concerning is that about 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had certain strains that carry a higher risk of cancer.

“Cervical cancer has the greatest link to these types of high risk HPV types. If you look across studies almost about 100 percent of cervical cancers have detectable HPV types in them,” he said.

Fittingly, Indiana lawmakers are currently working to prevent cervical cancer. On Monday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a bill that is aimed at cervical cancer prevention. The bill is sponsored by 13th District Representative Sharon Negele.

“Specifically, it’s tasked with identifying the behaviors for cervical cancer and then developing the strategy that’s prevention, screening, and treatment,” Negele said.

Negele also stressed the importance of early HPV screening

“You need to know if you have it. And if you do have it you need to know if you have a high risk strain, and then the associated behavior that should go along with that,” she said.

Vaccinations against HPV first became available in 2006, aimed at protecting kids before they become sexually active.

Aaron Ermel says a major key in combatting HPV lies in early education and vaccination, particularly for young children who have yet to be exposed to the virus.

“We do have vaccines that can help prevent this. As we get the message across that we can prevent this for future generations, that is where we’ll make the biggest impact. But right now it’s really more about condom use and preventing the spread to other people.”

For more on the NCHS study, click here.

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