Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, HPV Testing, and HPV Vaccines : Frequently Asked Questions

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What is HPV?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

What are viruses?

Viruses are very small organisms – most cannot even be seen with a regular microscope. They cannot reproduce on their own. They must enter a living cell, which becomes the host cell, and “hijack” the cell’s machinery to make more viruses.

Viruses can enter the body through the mucous membranes, such as the nose, mouth, the lining of the eyes, or the genitals. They can also enter through the skin and any breaks in the skin. Once inside, they find their specific type of host cell to infect. For example, cold and flu viruses find and invade cells that line the respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, breathing tubes, and lungs). The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects the T-cells and macrophages of the immune system. HPV infects squamous epithelial cells – the flat cells that cover the surface of the skin and mucous membranes.

Last Medical Review: 05/02/2013
Last Revised: 05/02/2013