Medical Q&As

Human papilloma virus - health risks?

What is the HPV virus and what are the risks to health?

HPV (human papilloma virus) is a very common virus that causes warts on many parts of the body. There are over seventy types of HPV and each type infects certain parts of the body. For example, there are specific strains of HPV that infect the feet, hands, mouth and genitalia. HPV infection is generally regarded as being innocuous with most people being infected by at least one strain of the virus. There is one exception to this generalisation and that has to do with HPV infection of the genitalia. HPV can grow on the cervix, vagina, vulva, urethra and the anus. It is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse and is the commonest form of STD in the world. In the USA alone it is reckoned to affect 1% of the population and the vast majority of those infected have no symptoms. HPV infection of the cervix can lead to carcinoma of the cervix. Therefore prevention of HPV infection of the female genitalia is an important preventive measure in reducing the incidence of carcinoma of the cervix.