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Oral Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Sexually Transmitted Disease Facts

Type of Infection: There are many types of human papilloma virus, the cause of genital warts (Condyloma acuminata). Of the more than 100 HPV types, about 30 of them can infect the mouth as well. Strains associated with oral cancers include 16, 18, 31, and 45.

Prevalence of Oral Human Papilloma Virus: [More here]

Modes of Transmission for Oral Human Papilloma Virus: HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, not via exchange of bodily fluids. This is the reason condoms are not 100% at preventing the spread of HPV, the virus lives on the skin of the abdomen, the thighs and pelvic regions. It seems fairly clear that oral sex is a cause, and HPV can also be transmitted through mouth-to-mouth contact, but it is not know how common this is.

Symptoms of Oral Human Papilloma Virus: Most often HPV warts appear on the lips, but they can also appear on the tongue, gums, throat and palate. At the same time, it should be noted that in most cases oral HPV infection is asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms at all. Lesions are more likely to be experienced by people with compromised immune systems.

Treatment for Oral Human Papilloma Virus: There is no known cure. Warts can be suppressed by chemicals, freezing, laser therapy and surgery. Unfortunately, effective antiviral drugs for HPV have not been developed yet.

Possible Consequences of Oral Human Papilloma Virus for the Infected Person: Oral HPV infection is the number one cause of throat and mouth cancer after tobacco use (probably a quarter of cases). In the United States, it is estimated that more than 1,700 new cases of HPV-associated head and neck cancers are diagnosed in women and nearly 5,700 are diagnosed in men each year.

Possible Consequences of Human Papilloma Virus in the Newborn: Infants exposed to the virus in the birth canal can develop warts in the throat which can obstruct the airway and must be removed. If the mother has genital or oral HPV, the infant is at increased risk of contracting HPV from the mother.

Prevention of Human Papilloma Virus: Abstaining from oral sex and mouth-to mouth contact with an infected person is the only effective means of prevention. Latex condoms provide little protection against contracting the disease during oral sex. There is now a vaccine that will prevent contaction of many strains of the HPV virus and subesquent cancer of the cervix.

Source for Information: Content source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/headneck.htm, updated 11/05/2008.

Photo Source:Hardin MD/University of Iowa and CDC, www.lib.uiowa.edu/Hardin/md/cdc/6056.html, accessed 03/23/2009. (Creative Commons, Public domain, No rights reserved.)