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Human Papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus with over 100 strains. Some strains can cause cervical cancer and others can cause genital warts.  Every year, about 550 women in Ontario develop cervical cancer, and of those, about 150 die. 

What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus?

Most people who get HPV will never know they have it. It may cause genital or anal warts that are very contagious, painless, or itchy and uncomfortable. They may disappear without treatment or they can last for years.

In some women, the HPV virus can cause changes to the cervix. The pre-cancerous lesions can be detected by a Pap test

How is the virus spread?
The virus is passed from person to person through sexual activity, including skin to skin touching in the genital area
How can human papillomavirus be prevented?  
  • HPV can be prevented by having absolutely no skin to skin sexual contact. The more sexual partners, the higher the chance of contracting HPV
  • Get regular pap tests to detect abnormal cells on the cervix
  • Get vaccinated to protect against four strains of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18.
  • All Grade 8 girls in Ontario are eligible for three doses (free) over a 6 month period of the HPV vaccine called Gardasil®
  • Girls in Grade 9 - 12 are now eligible and girls who were in Grade 8 in 2007-2008 may receive the vaccine this year.