HPV affects many in NJ but vaccine for kids could stop it
More likely than not, you'll get HPV at some point in your life. But your kids may be better off if you follow youth vaccine recommendations from the federal government.
While most cases of human papillomavirus, an infection transmitted through sexual contact, go away on their own and don't cause any health problems, the stubborn types can end up causing issues such as cancer and genital warts.
"HPV is certainly a pressing public health issue in New Jersey as well as in the U.S.," said Dr. Tina Tan, state epidemiologist with the New Jersey Department of Health.
Tan said it's estimated that about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and about 14 million new cases pop up each year.
"About half of those infections occur in people who are 15 to 24 years old," Tan said.
As part of its Partnering for a Healthy New Jersey initiative, the state health department convened stakeholders last month for a meeting devoted specifically to HPV infections, immunization and prevention.
HPV is a group of more than 150 virus types. It can be passed from one individual to the next even when an infected person is showing no symptoms — one can develop symptoms years after being infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using national data, the state health department said about 1,900 new cases of HPV-associated cancer occurred each year among New Jersey residents between 2011 and 2015. The most common associated cancer for women was cervical cancer. For men, oral and pharyngeal cancer.
But a series of vaccinations is available, aimed to prevent the types of HPV associated with cancers. The HPV vaccine is one of four recommended for adolescent populations.
The series can be started for individuals as young as 9.; it's recommended at age 11 or 12. The CDC recommends two doses for youth starting the series before their 15th birthday, and three doses for those aged 15 to 26.
"About 90 percent of HPV- associated cancers are preventable through the HPV vaccine," Tan said.
Receiving the vaccine at 11 or 12 years old, Tan added, increases its impact because antibody responses are greater at this young age.
Since the first HPV vaccine was recommended in 2006, vaccine-type HPV infections among teen girls dropped 64 percent, according to the CDC. Studies show fewer teens are getting genital warts and cervical precancers.
National statistics put the vaccination rate at 53.8 percent for New Jersey females ages 13 to 17, and 45.5 percent for males in the same age range. The national average is 49 percent.