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Dr. Anat Froom, a gynecologist at the Schneider Children's Hospital, has published an article about the most common sexually transmitted disease – and about a simple and effective way to avoid infection.
The numbers do not inspire optimism A: 80%-90% of sexually active people will be infected with papillomavirus during their lifetime, and about half of those infected will be infected with a strain of the virus that can cause cancer. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women.
Cancer does not spare men either: the papilloma virus can cause cancer of the penis and rectum. The most common disease in men is oral and pharyngeal cancer, which is not as early diagnosed as the PAP smear, and the vaccine also helps protect during oral sex. The vaccine also protects boys from warts, which are a nasty disease. In addition, there is undoubtedly a larger goal – the “herd effect”. If we also vaccinate boys, cervical cancer will practically disappear in a few years.
The papilloma virus is widespread and easily transmitted through direct contact, especially during sexual intercourse. The infection is often asymptomatic, and those who are infected are unaware that they can transmit the virus to other people. Papillomaviruses are also transmitted by skin contact and rubbing, and not only in body fluids, so preventive measures are not effective in preventing infection with them, as exposed skin can transmit the virus. This is the most common sexually transmitted disease. As mentioned, most sexually active people will be infected with papillomavirus during their lifetime, and about half of those infected will be infected with a strain of the virus that can cause cancer. In 90% of cases, the virus disappears from the body without causing harm, but up to 10% of cases develop diseases caused by the HPV virus.
The safest and only way to avoid infection, and with the greatest effectiveness, is to get vaccinated before having sex. The vaccine currently used in Israel is Gardasil 9, which protects against nine strains of papillomavirus: 6, 11, 16, 18 and strains 31, 33, 45, 52, 58, which mainly cause cervical cancer. It is intended for boys and girls aged 9 to 26. Vaccines against the papillomavirus prevent infection of future vaccinated strains of the virus that are part of the vaccine.
Vaccination against papillomavirus (HPV) is routinely given to 8th grade students at school in two doses with an interval of 6 months between doses. With the introduction of three doses, the intervals are two and six months from the first dose. It is important to note that a second dose can always be given, even if more than six months have passed, but it should be taken into account that after 15 years, three injections should be given instead of two until the age of 15 years. Girls and boys aged 14-18 who have not been vaccinated for various reasons have the right to be vaccinated free of charge at schools (in grade 9) or at the medical bureaus of the Ministry of Health (starting from grade 10). Unfortunately, data from recent years shows that only about 50% of eighth graders received the first dose of the vaccine and 40% the second.
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