Louisiana’s rate of 52.9 percent is an 11.1 percent increase since 2016 and is higher than the national average of 48.6 percent.
While those numbers are worth celebrating, there’s still more work to be done to vaccinate for HPV. It’s strongly recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health that youths receive the vaccine at ages 11-12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus.
What is HPV?
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses that cause nearly all cervical cancers and many cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum and oropharynx. It’s transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact.
Louisiana currently has higher rates of oropharyngeal (mouth and pharynx) cancer in men and women and cervical cancer in women than the rest of the U.S., as well as the third-highest death rate from HPV-related cancers.
Nearly all men and women contract HPV at some point in their lives. It can be passed along despite a lack of signs or symptoms, which can develop years after being infected. Most men never develop symptoms and the infection clears up by itself. But if it doesn’t, it can cause genital warts or certain types of cancer.
HPV-related cancer usually displays no symptoms until it is advanced, very serious and hard to treat. That’s why women should be regularly screened for cervical cancer. Screening can find early signs of disease that can be treated early.
The HPV vaccine
The vaccine, Gardasil 9, is safe, effective and recommended by the CDC. It’s administered in a series of shots given over several months. The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, as well as the invasive testing and treatment for changes in cervical cells that can develop into cancer.
Side effects include pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given, fever, headache or tiredness, nausea and muscle/joint pain.
The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Fainting and related symptoms such as jerking movements are possible after any medical procedure and can be prevented by sitting or lying down during the vaccination, then remaining seated for 15 minutes after.
To schedule the vaccination, call your health care provider or parish health unit.
Financial help is available through the Vaccines for Children Program for children ages 18 and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native. Local information is available at the Louisiana Department of Health's Community and Preventive Health page.
For more information, refer to this HPV fact sheet.