A bill that would make HPV vaccinations mandatory for Florida public school students has been filed in the Florida legislature. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease in the nation.
Democratic Florida Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez introduced the Florida HPV bill. Also known as the Woman’s Cancer Prevention Act, the bill would make immunization mandatory for students between the ages of 11 and 12, regardless of gender. If the Florida HPV bill is approved, it will go into effect on July 1.
The Florida HPV bill aims to help prevent health problems associated with the virus. Similar state laws have already passed in the U.S., including in Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
Under current law, Florida school children must obtain mandatory polio, tetanus, mumps, and rubella vaccinations. However, parents can follow procedures to obtain exemptions for their children. This would also be the case for the mandatory HPV vaccination.
What Is HPV?
Human papillomavirus is actually a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each virus is identified with a number, also known as its HPV type. Some of these viruses cause warts, or papillomas, hence the name. Other HPV types lead to various kind of cancer. Both men and women may by diagnosed with HPV-related cancer of the mouth, throat, or rectum. HPV may also cause penile cancer in men. In women, an HPV infection may lead to cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer. The vaccine was created to help prevent the strains of HPV that commonly lead to cancer.
How Is HPV Spread?
Quite simply, HPV is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. It’s possible to contract HPV through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with a strain of HPV. An estimated one in four Americans currently has some form of HPV, but the virus is so prevalent that most people will have some form of it at some point in their lifetimes. Many people who are infected aren’t symptomatic. Some don’t develop symptoms until years after the initial infection.
How Prevalent Is HPV?
It’s estimated that one in four U.S. residents currently has HPV – a total of 80 million people. Around 14 million people are diagnosed with the virus each year. Because many of these newly diagnosed patients are teenagers, this bill could have a marked effect on the spread of the virus.
If left untreated, an HPV infection may result in cancer. About 31,000 cases of HPV-associated cancer are diagnosed each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early vaccination treatment could prevent about 28,000 of those cases.
How Is HPV Treated?
Sometimes, a patient’s immune system clears an HPV infection and the patient doesn’t experience any health problems. Unfortunately, when HPV does not go away, it can lead to problems like genital warts and cancer.
Patients with genital warts should see their healthcare provider, who usually diagnoses warts by sight. Genital warts can be small or large, flat or raised, or cauliflower-shaped. They can be treated with prescription medication or surgically removed.
Women should undergo regular Pap tests, which test the cervix for HPV and abnormal cells. If abnormal cells or tumors are present, a doctor can determine whether further treatment is necessary. There are several methods of removing abnormal cells from the cervix. Unfortunately, there is no test for strains of HPV that cause cancer in men.
Learn more about the HPV Vaccine.
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