National Services Scotland logo

Fit for Travel Logo

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Introduction

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses spread through sexual contact, which can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts and other cancers in both men and women.

Recommendations for Travellers

Travel itself does not increase the risk of exposure to HPV.

Travellers should be given information about the risks of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections. Condoms may not offer complete protection against HPV.

Vaccination

HPV vaccine is given as part of the UK National vaccine schedule. From 2019, HPV vaccination is routinely recommended for all girls and boys at 12 to 13 years of age. HPV vaccine is not normally given as a travel vaccine. 

Overview of the Disease

HPV can be found throughout the world. HPV is commonly transmitted by skin-to-skin contact (usually during sexual contact). Genital HPV can also be spread during oral sex and by non-sexual routes such as mother to baby.

Over 100 different types of the virus exist and of those, about 20 types are known to cause cervical cancer in women. 

HPV can infect other parts of the body in both men and women and cause genital warts and other cancers including those affecting the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and some cancers of the head and neck.

The Illness

Genital HPV infections are common and are usually self-limiting. Persistent genital infection can cause pre cancerous lesions which if left untreated can go on to cause cervical cancer in women and other cancers in both men and women as above.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment available for HPV.

Further Information

  • Updated information on HPV is available at NHS Inform

back to top