What is it

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. It can potentially affect any sexually active man or woman.1

There are different types of HPV that affect different parts of the body. Some of these can cause anal and genital warts and others can lead to more serious consequences such as cervical, penile and anal cancers. Other types of HPV can cause certain cancers of the head and neck.2

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.2 

What are the symptoms

Because there are different types of HPV, different parts of the body can be affected by the virus. Most HPV infections occur without any symptoms and go away without treatment.1,2

HPV can cause genital warts, however these strains of HPV do not cause cancer.1 In some people HPV infections can persist. This is especially dangerous if the persistent infection is a cancer-causing type. In some cases HPV can cause penile, anal, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancers.1,2 Persistent HPV infection with a cancer-causing type is the major cause of cervical cancer.1,2

How is it spread

Papilloma virus is common and easily spread by direct contact, especially when having sex. The infection usually occurs without external signs and the infected are not aware that they can transmit the virus to others.3

How is it prevented

Transmission can be reduced through safer sex practices including the consistent and proper use of condoms as well as a reduction in the number of sexual partners.2 Using a condom when having sex can help prevent infection with various sexually transmitted diseases, but does not guarantee complete prevention of HPV infection, as it does not cover the entire genital area and is usually worn after sexual contact has begun.3 Abstinence from all sexual activities offers protection against sexually transmitted infections.

HPV is vaccine-preventable. The vaccine is most effective when given before someone is sexually active. The papilloma virus vaccines prevent future infection with the virus strains contained in the vaccine. The vaccines do not treat or cure health problems (such as cancer or warts), caused by a virus infection that occurred before the vaccine was given.3

The papilloma virus vaccine is given at the 8th grade to boys and girls as part of immunization program in Israel.3

How is it treated

Early detection is crucial to identifying cancerous and pre-cancerous cells, and can vastly improve a woman's treatment options and survival rate should she be diagnosed with cervical cancer or its precursors. The HPV vaccines currently available do not protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV, so all women, including those who have been immunized, should continue to undergo regular cervical cancer screening (i.e., Pap tests).Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. For further information regarding HPV and immunization, please speak with your healthcare provider.


  1. World Health Organization. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer Fact Sheet.
  2. Government of Canada. Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  3. Ministry of Health Israel. Vaccines. HPV.