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Health Team

New Vaccine Is Latest Weapon in Fight Against HPV

Posted February 27, 2007 4:17 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2007 6:17 p.m. EST

WRAL Health Team
Researchers said the human papilloma virus (HPV) could lead to cervical cancer, but a new vaccine can help prevent it.

Dr. Ira Horowitz, of the Emory University School of Medicine, said he sees all sorts of patients who have HPV infections.

"I see teenagers who have had intercourse with just one person, all the way to women in their 80s who have been exposed to the virus and now have manifestations as abnormal pap smears and pre-cancerous lesions," he said.

Horowitz said he is not surprised by the findings of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We found that overall HPV prevalence among females in the United States, ages 14 to 59 years of age, was 26.8 percent and that means one in four women are infected with HPV," said Dr. Eilene Dunn, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used health data from more than 2,000 women ages 14 to 59, to estimate national HPV infection rates.

"The prevalence was highest among the 20- to 24-year old women. Almost half of those women were infected with HPV," Dunn said.

There are hundreds of kinds of HPV infections. Some can lead to cancer. The new vaccine covers two HPV types that cause most cervical cancer and two types that cause genital warts. She said 3.4 percent of women had infection with the types of HPV that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Officials said there are three ways to prevent HPV infection -- abstinence, condom or barrier use and the vaccine. Dunne said the number of HPV-infected women is likely even higher because the study only measured active infections.

Health experts said once you have the virus, you have it for life, even if you don't have an active infection.