Should you be one less?

Lyssa Beyer

Linked to cervical cancer, “(Human papillomavirus) is the most common STD in the US,” said Tracy Teselle, clinic manager of Student Health Service on campus.

HPV contains 40 types of the disease caused by sexual contact, said Dr. Teri Stevenson, a pediatrician at Luther Midelfort Hospital, 1221 Whipple St. While most cases of the virus are systematic, meaning that the body can fight off the disease, some forms of HPV have the ability to cause more serious problems, she said, adding that there is no treatment for the disease.

Some types of HPV lead to further problems such cancers of the mouth and rectum and genital warts, which look like skin tags, Stevenson said.

“Actually, 80 percent of sexually active men and women will have it [HPV] sometime in their lifetime,” she said, adding that this makes it extremely common, especially among young adults.

Gardasil, a vaccine that has been out for about a year, prevents four types of the virus, which mainly cause cancer. The vaccine seems to be very safe, and has been available to the general public for about a year, Stevenson said.

The vaccine is given as a shot in the upper shoulder. There are three shots total. After the first is administered, the second dose is given two months later and the third is give six months after that, said Stevenson. The vaccine tends to be pretty pricey, with the base cost of one dose being about $150, not counting other fees, she said.

Administration of Gardasil began in fall of 2006 on the Eau Claire campus. Since then, around 200 doses have been given, said Teselle. Sometimes students receive their first dose here, or finish them here, as the vaccine is given in a series of three doses, she said.

“We’re administering more all the time,” Teselle said of the shots, adding much of this is a result of advertising and promotion by health officials.

Some side effects of the vaccine may include pain at the injection site, itching, swelling and in some cases, a mild, low grade fever, Stevenson said.

“Usually, symptoms don’t last long and go away on their own,” Teselle said.

Sophomore Brianna Helgeson said she experienced one side effect of the vaccine. After receiving the first shot, she said she experienced a lot of pain at the injection sight. Helgeson, who said her mother made her get the vaccine because her mother had cervical cancer, believes that the vaccine is a good thing.

“It’s good if it will prevent even a few (cases of cervical cancer),” she said.

However, there are some cases when the vaccine should not be administered at all.

“It cannot be given to pregnant women,” Stevenson said, adding that it contains yeast and should not be given to those with a yeast allergy as well as those with other serious illnesses.

The recommended age to receive the vaccine is 11 or 12 years old, Stevenson said. That way, they are well protected way beforehand. The vaccine is most successful when administered before first sexual contact.

There are ways to prevent HPV besides the vaccine. Although condoms are important, they “don’t prevent HPV,” Stevenson said. So a way to avoid being infected with HPV is to limit the number of sexual partners, or to simply practice abstinence, she said.

Freshman Katie Jamison agrees with the abstinence approach. She hasn’t received the vaccine because she does not think it’s something to worry about.

“The lifestyle I’ve chosen.doesn’t require me to have it,” she said. Also, because the vaccine is so new, Jamison said she has another reason for not receiving it.

“I don’t put something in my body that in my opinion isn’t researched enough,” she said, adding she wants time to see the side effects, but feels that she won’t ever need it. However, for people who have chosen a different lifestyle than hers, the vaccine will be beneficial for them, she said.

Also, Jamison said she feels that the vaccine should not be mandatory.

Even if a person has already had sexual contact, it is important to receive the vaccine, even if they have already contracted a type of HPV, Stevenson said.

“There is no way to know which one you’ve been infected with,” she said.

The vaccine is currently thought to have lifelong protection, even though it has only been available to the general public for a year. Continued testing is necessary in order to find out, Stevenson said.

Even after receiving the vaccine, Stevenson said, it is important for women to visit a gynecologist regularly and receive a pap smear, a test for cervical cancer, on a yearly basis, she said.

Although Jamison never intends to receive the vaccine, she said she believes it will do something important.

“I do think it will save people.”