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Women's Health Guidelines Change; Pap Smears Not Always Annual

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CLARKSBURG -

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reports that 50 percent of sexually active Americans will have HPV at some point in their lives, many without ever knowing it.

"If you are sexually active and you or your partner have had more than one partner at any time it increases your risks for HPV greatly," said Ramona Swiger with the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department.

Swiger said those who use protection are still at risk.

"It is through sexual contact that you can transmit it. Even if you use a barrier method, such as a condom, it's not always 100 percent sure that you will prevent the transmission," Swiger said.

It's a virus that can lead to serious health issues.

"Not just cervical cancer. They're finding HPV is one of the number one causes of esophageal cancer also," Swiger said.

Health care providers have been educating about the virus and been pro-active about diagnosing and treating for years.

"They made fairly stringent guidelines as far as you need to have pap results and make sure even young girls get paps," Swiger said.

But those standards are becoming a bit more relaxed and not every woman will need an annual pap smear.

"They have changed those guidelines to not even recommending a pap smear to anyone who is healthy under the age of 21. Then after that age, if you have regular paps, then the routine would be to have a pap smear every two years," Swiger said.

The vaccine is still highly encouraged though for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 25.

For more information about HPV click here.