Did you know that there are more than 100 types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
No doubt, this is the most common sexually transmitted disease. If a teenager or high school student has been sexually active, there is a chance that he or she has already contracted HPV. It is also true in the case of adults.
It is known that most types of HPV infections get cured on their own. However, in some young adults, it may cause severe symptoms and lead to related health issues. These health issues include warts on the face, genitals, or neck, and even cancer.
Due to the many health problems caused by HPV infection, it is necessary to ensure HPV prevention. The most feasible method is through education and proper HPV prevention sessions at school. Let’s understand the consequences of HPV and how school authorities can spread awareness about HPV.
Symptoms Of HPV
When HPV infection spreads in the body, it usually creates warts. The type of warts depends on the type of HPV involved. Here are some common symptoms of HPV:
These warts might appear on the elbow, hands, or fingers. Common warts are raised, rough bumps that can often be painful and susceptible to bleeding and injury.
2. Genital Warts
Genital warts are flat lesions that appear in small cauliflower-like structures. Women have it around the anus, cervix, vulva, or in the vagina. Men have it around the anus, penis, or the scrotum. Genital warts are itchy but less painful.
3. Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are uncomfortable, grainy growths on the feet or heels. These can cause discomfort in walking.
4. Flat Warts
Flat warts are only slightly raised. Women generally get it on the legs and men on chin. However, flat warts can appear anywhere on the body.
5. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is the most serious health issue caused by HPV infection. This is because most women don’t even realize they are infected because of the lack of symptoms. Some types of HPV don’t lead to warts but can cause precancerous lesions. When these lesions develop in cancerous growth, the symptoms of cervical cancer appear. Due to our inability to detect the symptoms of HPV infection, women are advised to regularly get the pap test.
Note: One simple way to ensure HPV prevention is to get vaccinated at an early age. This means that knowledge regarding vaccination should be delivered to educators and parents during HPV intervention programs.
Causes of HPV
The most common cause of HPV infection is sexual intercourse including anal, oral, and vaginal intercourse. This is possible even if the infected person doesn’t have any visible symptoms of having HPV infection. Even mouth-to-mouth touch or kissing can spread the virus.
The other way through which HPV is transmitted is via skin-to-skin touch. If you have a cut, bruise, or tear on your skin, the virus can enter into your system through it.
In many cases, if a new mother has HPV infection, she can unknowingly transfer it to the baby during feeding or delivery.
However, the virus can’t be transmitted through shared food, pools, toilet seats, etc.
Risk Factors Involved
- If an individual has multiple sexual partners, it can cause HPV infection. This is also possible if their partner has had multiple sexual partners. In both cases, the risk of HPV is too high.
- Genital warts are more common in young adults as it is spread through sexual contact. Hence, all the relevant information on the subject should be delivered during an HPV prevention program.
- Youngsters with a weak immune system (caused by any factor such as organ transplant, illness, or HIV) are more susceptible to HPV.
- Touching warts or coming into contact with an infected person or area such as in a public shower increases the risk of warts.
- If the skin has cuts or bruises, skin contact with an infected individual can cause HPV infection.
HPV Prevention Tips
- Reduce or limit sexual partners. Increase the use of condoms for every sexual intercourse to avoid the infection.
- Don’t enter public bathrooms or locker rooms barefoot to prevent plantar warts.
- Get vaccinated in early teenage years to remove the risk of warts or cancer. Especially in women, vaccination is necessary so that the exposure to cancerous growth can be reduced.
- Further, young women are advised to receive a pap test regularly to detect changes in cervix and genitals. It can help with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer or genital warts.
Some Facts About HPV Prevention
- It has been observed in many cases that HPV remains in the body in the dormant or inactive form. After years, it starts developing cancerous cells.
- Utilizing condoms for sexual intercourse can’t make young adults fully safe from HPV infection. This is due to the fact that the virus can infect the scrotum or pubic hair, which is possible even with a condom.
- Smoking can reduce the efficacy of our immune system. Hence, it can become a reason for the spread of HPV infection in the body.
School Intervention for HPV Prevention
Intervention by school authorities can facilitate HPV prevention in young adults. It can be ensured that these students get vaccinated at the right time, utilize preventive measures, and further educate others about the same.
In a study, a randomized HPV intervention program was organized. Of the 741 students that completed the research, the intervention group received 30-minute sessions on HPV prevention. It included the need and techniques for HPV prevention, the consequences of infection, and the common health problems related to HPV. Students were also encouraged to utilize condoms during sexual intercourse and reduce the number of sexual partners to a minimum. At the end of the study after three months, the prevention group had a high rate of HPV vaccination and enhanced understanding of the subject.
HPV infection doesn’t permanently harm most people, but it effects the health and wellbeing of many. Its worst consequences appear in the form of different types of warts and cervical cancer. This makes it necessary for school authorities and educational institutions to develop an intervention program for reducing the risk of HPV. With the right approach and knowledge, it is possible to increase awareness about HPV prevention in middle and high school students.