What is the HPV Virus?
HPV stands for ‘human papillomavirus’, which is a group of more than 100 viruses. The HPV virus is very common; most people will be infected with a form of HPV in their lifetime. The majority of HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and infection is usually cleared by the body’s own immune system without the need for other treatment.
However, each year in Ireland about 530 people will be diagnosed with a HPV associated cancer.
The HPV virus causes:
• almost all cervical cancers
• 9 out of 10 vulval cancers
• 8 out of 10 vaginal cancers
• 9 out of 10 HPV-related anal cancers
• 9 out of 10 incidences of genital warts.
Research has shown HPV infection is also associated with cancers of:
• the mouth and throat (oropharynx)
• the back passage (the rectum)
• the penis
The HPV Vaccine
In 2010, the HPV vaccine was introduced in Ireland for girls in first year in secondary schools. Since September 2019, the HPV vaccine is also being offered to boys in first year in secondary schools, as research shows that the HPV virus can cause cancers and conditions that affect boys as well.
In September, Ireland joined over 20 countries including Australia, the UK and Italy who already give HPV vaccine to boys and girls.
International research has shown that the HPV vaccine is very effective.
In Australia, studies have shown:
• a 77% reduction in the types of HPV responsible for most cervical cancers;
• an almost 50% reduction in the incidence of high-grade (significant) cervical abnormalities in girls under 18 years of age;
• a 90% reduction in genital warts in heterosexual men and women under 21 years of age.
The more boys and girls vaccinated the better we can control the spread of the infection.
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