Nearly Half Of Americans Have HPV


HPV is far more common than you might think. New findings show that more than 42% of Americans between ages 18 to 59 are infected with the virus.

The report, published this month by the National Center for Health Statistics, found high-risk strains of the virus infected 20.4% of women and 25.1% of men. However, two vaccines are effective in preventing sexually transmitted HPV infection, increasing the urgency to have adolescents receive these vaccinations.

“If we can get 11- and 12-year-olds to get the vaccine, we’ll make some progress,” said Geraldine McQuillan, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and lead author of the new report. “You need to give it before kids become sexually active, before they get infected. By the time they’re in their mid-20s, people are infected and it’s too late. This is a vaccine against cancer — that’s the message.

Perhaps most interesting is that Dr. McQuillan and her team found major differences in rates of high-risk genital HPV infection based on race and ethnicity. The highest rate, 33.7 percent, was found among non-Hispanic blacks; the lowest, 11.9 percent, among Asians. The prevalence of genital HPV infection was 21.6 percent among whites and 21.7 percent among Hispanics.

Approximately 7.3% of Americans ages 18 to 69 were infected with an oral version of HPV, while 4% were infected with strains that can cause cancer of the pharynx and mouth.

However, many forms of HPV simply go away over time. The body clears over 90% of HPV infections within two years.