HPV and Gardasil
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that will affect many people at some point in their lives. HPV has multiple subtypes, many of which are essentially harmless, don’t cause significant problems and resolve on their own. Some subtypes cause genital warts-unsightly growths that can appear on the penis, scrotum, anus, vagina or labia. These types do not carry the risk of turning into cancer. Other subtypes do not cause visible lesions but can cause changes in the cells of a woman’s cervix. Within that subtype are some that are considered “higher risk” for leading to cervical, anal or oral cancer.
How do you get HPV?
HPV is easily transmitted by direct contact with an infected person, usually during sexual activity involving genital contact. Any kind of unprotected sexual contact can put a person at risk—it is not necessary to have intercourse to be exposed to the virus.
How common is HPV?
HPV infection is much more common than people realize. In 2005-2006, more than 20 million Americans had genital HPV. Every year more than six million new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. Most people do not know they have the virus. Approximately 90% of infected persons have no symptoms and unknowingly pass it on their partners.
Is there a test for HPV?
Genital warts are usually diagnosed on the basis of their appearance. Higher risk types can be detected by a Pap test, a microscopic examination of the cervical cells that may reveal abnormalities characteristic of HPV infection. Testing can be done to see if the changes are caused by a subtype with a higher risk of leading to cancer.
What about Gardasil?
Gardasil is a vaccine that protects men and women against four different subtypes of HPV. Two of these types, HPV 11 and 6, cause 90% of all genital warts. The other two types, HPV 16 and 18, cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers. Gardasil is approved for men and women ages 9-26. The best time to get Gardasil is before exposure to the virus, which is why it is recommended that people get the vaccine before the onset of sexual activity.
How is it given?
The vaccine is administered by injection (shot) and is given in three doses over six months on the following schedule: dose #1 followed by dose #2 two months later and ending with dose #3, six months after the first one. The injection is given in the upper arm muscle. Side effects are generally mild and may include pain, itching and redness at the injection site, mild fever and possibly nausea or dizziness.
Does the Health Center offer Gardasil?
Yes. The SHC offers Gardasil at $135 per dose, payable by cash, check, TigerBucks, Visa or MasterCard. You will need an appointment for the first dose. We can give you a receipt to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement, if applicable. Please check your insurance coverage first to be sure you will be reimbursed for immunizations given at the SHC.
Another option is to make an appointment to obtain a prescription for the vaccine to be purchased at an outside pharmacy. You may then bring the vaccine to the SHC for administration. For full time students this service is covered under your Student Health Fee. Part time, graduate and coop students may pay a visit fee for service.
If you started the series elsewhere and want/need to get a dose while at school to stay on schedule, please bring documentation of previous doses (with the date(s) given and a health care provider’s signature) to your appointment, or ask your health care provider to fax it to us at (585) 475-7788. We will not give a dose without this documentation.
For additional questions or concerns, please call or stop by the SHC and ask to speak to a provider.
For more information, please see the CDC HPV Vaccine Questions and Answers.