HPV: What is it?

Every year between 140 and 160 women die from cervical cancer in Austria. A precursor to the cervix disease is even diagnosed in up to 6,000 women. This type of cancer can be triggered by human papilloma viruses, HPV for short. And they affect us all: For about 70 percent of the population – and women and men – get infected with the virus at least once during their lifetime, some more often. Since 2006, there is a vaccine that protects against the onset of HPV. This is currently with a total of about € 620, – still relatively expensive and is therefore little used. Your admission to the free school vaccination program will probably change this from the coming year. We have collected the most important information about the Human Papilloma Virus and all facts about the vaccine. The HP virus.
Of the widespread virus, there are about 120 subspecies. In case of an infection, the immune system usually switches on and fights it. But if this is chronic, it can lead to cell changes, cancer precursors can arise. "The infection becomes chronic when the genetic information of the virus is incorporated directly into the genetic information of the cell and the immune system can no longer intervene," explains gynecologist Dr. Christian Marth. In addition to cervical cancer, the virus can also call on genital warts and cancer on the vagina, labia , Penis and larynx trigger contagion and symptoms.
The virus is transmitted via sexual contact – not only during sexual intercourse, but also at the mere touch of the genital area. Although condoms reduce the risk, only about 70 percent protect against infection. Also, infection via a shared bath towel is possible. The treacherous: Most of the time you do not notice the infection, because there are no symptoms. Vaccination.
Two variants are available: a double and a quadruple vaccination. The two vaccines protect against the high-risk viruses type 16 and 18, which can cause cancer, and the second variant also helps against the low-risk viruses 6 and 11, which cause genital warts, "says Dr. Marth One to two months after the first injection, the second and six months after the first injection, the third dose is injected .
Since both sexes can get HPV, the vaccine is recommended for girls and boys. Ideal age: nine to twelve years. The vaccine protection is the better, the sooner vaccination takes place – in other words, the lower the chance that you have already come into contact with HPV. A spread of the virus could thus be prevented from the outset everywhere. The syringe protects against new infections, so it makes sense that adults can be vaccinated, even if they may already have had contact with the virus and the infection has healed again. How long the vaccine works, you do not know, probably lifelong. Side effects.
The vaccine is considered well tolerated. However, it may – as with other syringes – come to redness or swelling at the injection site. In addition, after vaccination, adolescents tend to increase their circulatory collapse. This side effect is also to be observed here. Because a few years ago, a young girl died a few weeks after receiving the HPV vaccine, the vaccine was suspected of causing her early death. "The case has been extensively studied, but at no time has there been any evidence of a causal relationship with the previous vaccine," explains Dr. Pamela Rendi-Wagner of the Department of Health PAP smear.
The annual smear test at the gynecologist is the most important examination in the early detection of cervical cancer. The sample is examined for precursors of the cancer. To avoid misunderstanding: the vaccine does not replace the regular PAP smear! The reason: According to the OEGGG, chronic infections with the already mentioned high-risk types 16 and 18 are responsible for more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. But it can not yet be vaccinated against all HP viruses. In addition, there are – rarely, but still – so-called vaccine failures: "People who do not develop protection through the vaccine," explains Dr. Marth .
The HPV immunization will now be included in the school vaccination program: From February 2014, children 10 years of age, in the 4th grade, can be vaccinated free of charge. Studies show that HPV-induced cancers continue to increase. "With increasing numbers of cases, the rapid uptake of prevention into the pediatric vaccine program has become increasingly important, with 170 million injections administered to HPV worldwide vaccine programs, with a reduction in HPV genital warts and a strong reduction in precancerous lesions in the immunized," White says Dr. Rendi-Wagner: Adults have to pay for the treatment themselves.