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Shock Study: Teens Can Contract HPV Without Sex

University of Miami pediatrician Judith L. Schaechter, M.D. (L) gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A new study of female teens and young adults found 11.6 percent who were virgins -- those who never had sexual intercourse -- were still infected with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

According to MyHealthNewsDaily, although HPV is generally and most easily transmitted through intercourse, "genital-to-genital or hand-to-genital contact" can pass the virus as well. The study, published by the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine and led by assistant professor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Lea Widdice, used these findings as a case for further recommending Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that protects against cancer-causing strains of the STD.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health, but MyHealthNewsDaily does disclose that a colleague of Widdice receives research funding from Merck, the company manufacturing Gardasil.

MyHealthNewsDaily also points out that the study focused only one community of primarily African American women, and within the study group there was a high percentage of participants who were sexually active or had some sort of sexual contact. This means more research would be needed to show if the results actually represented the general population, as "the prevalence of HPV may be lower in a group with different sexual behaviors."

The study evaluated 259 women age 13 through 21, finding 69 had not had sexual intercourse at all. Of those, eight still had at least one strain of HPV.

MyHealthNewsDaily reports cancer epidemiologist from McGill University Eduardo Franco, who was not involved in the study, saying this percentage is higher than expected, but he did note the high exposure to at least some sort of sexual experience as potentially being the cause.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinating girls age 11 to 12 with the three-dose vaccine to prevent against strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for boys as well age 9 to 26.

"The vaccine is very safe and highly effective, but it works best if we can give it to girls and boys before they're sexually active," said according to Good Morning America.

Still, the vaccine has long been considered controversial for various reasons ranging from its safety to necessity of parental consent.

A New Zeeland family, for example, recently accused the vaccine of killing their daughter. The NZCity News reports 18-year-old Jasmine Nicole Renata died in 2009, but her family more recently told a coroner's inquest they believe Gardasil is to blame:

Capital and Coast District Health Board clinical geneticist Dr Katherine Neas told the inquest Miss Renata's symptoms pointed toward her suffering a congenital heart problem.

Testing for one genetic abnormality had ruled out that condition, but Miss Renata's family had so far refused to be tested for other conditions which could help find the cause of her death, or discount other causes, Dr Neas said.

Mrs Renata rejected the suggestion her daughter died from a heart problem as there was no family history of heart problems.

"The only one who's not here is my daughter and she's the only one who took Gardasil."

There have also been several cases in the news within the last few years where minors were given the vaccine without parental consent even, including a 14-year-old girl in Detroit. The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health found 57 percent of parents believe consent should be required by legal guardians before a minor was administered the vaccine. According to the press release about the poll, the most common reason (86 percent) for believing consent should be required was that HPV should be a parent's decision; 43 percent cited the risk of side effects of the vaccine; and 40 percent said they have moral or ethical concerns about the vaccine.

Watch this report on the poll:

A recent literature review published in the journal Viral Immunology also found targeting the vaccine toward men may not be effective considering economic and social factors. The authors wrote "economic prediction models suggest that the associated costs outweigh the benefits in most circumstances. Taking this into account, our review also considers alternate methods of maximizing prevention of HPV-associated disease."

(H/T: TheBlaze reader Karol O., Fox News)

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