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Teens and Human Papilloma Virus


The human papilloma virus otherwise referred to as HPV is one of the most common types of viruses that affect families around the world. HPV is one the worlds most common sexually transmitted diseases. The virus is transmitted through skin to skin contact with a person suffering from the virus. It affects the cells that are both inside and outside of the body in body parts such as the skin, the cervix, tonsils, tongue, the lining of the mouth, anus, vagina, and the penis (Sexuality and you, 2010)

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Most of the people who get the virus do not show any signs or symptoms of having the disease which might lead them to spread the disease unknowingly to other people. While the disease is categorized as an STD virus, it is not similar to HIV. There are many different types of the HPV virus. So far scientists have been able to identify 80 strands of the virus but most researchers believe that the virus has over 200 types. With more and more teenagers engaging in sexual activities at a young age, the risk of them contracting HPV is extremely high.

Definition and Description of Epidemiology

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants that cause health related issues in a population that has been determined in a particular area. The application of epidemiological studies is used to control health problems from recurring in that particular area. Epidemiologists, the people concerned with epidemiological studies, are concerned with aspects such as the positive health states of the people in the population affected with diseases and the means to improve their health. The scope of epidemiology is a specific group of people selected from a specific population in a certain country at a certain time (Bonita et al, 2006).

Epidemiological Triangle

According to Merril & Timmreck (2006), this is a model that is used by scientists to study health problems and diseases. The epidemiological triangle is based on the communicable disease model and it is a useful tool in showing the relationship that exists between the agent, host and the environment. The triangle is made up of three corners referred to as vertices which are the agent, host and the environment. The agent is what causes the disease while the host if the organism that carry’s the disease. The environment is the external factor that causes or allows the disease to be transmitted. The aspect of time in the triangle involves looking at the various disease incubation periods, the life expectancy of the host and the how the host has carried the disease (Merril & Timmreck, 2006).

The Epidemiological Triangle
The Epidemiological Triangle.

The agents of diseases that are infectious include viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and molds. Noninfectious diseases have agents such as bodily injury, disability, death, or chemicals from harmful foods such as tobacco smoke or nutritional deficiencies. A host offers a hospitable environment for the disease pathogen. The level of immunity found in the host as well as the genetic structure, state of health or fitness and level of exposure to the disease will help in determining whether the disease organism will have any major impact on the host (Merrill & Timmreck, 2006).

The genetic structure of the host and the ability of the disease pathogen to adapt to the host’s environment will determine how the duration of the disease in the host’s body as well as its severity. The surroundings in which the disease pathogen inhabits and survives in and the effect of these surroundings to the pathogen are viewed to be part of the environment. Environmental factors will include things such as the social, cultural, biological and physical aspects of the host’s environment (Merill & Timmreck, 2006).

The environment can also be within or outside the host. The aspect of time involves measuring the severity of the disease with relation to how long the carrier suffers from the illness until the disease ends by death or passes through a period of recovery. The delays in time from the period of infection to when signs of the disease develop and the threshold of an epidemic in a population are time elements with which the epidemiologist should be concerned with. The outbreak of the disease, which in this case is HPV in teens, can be stopped when one of the elements in the triangle is altered, changed, interfered with or removed from existence so that the illness does not continue with its mode of transmission (Merill & Timmreck, 2006).

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Steps and Methods of Epidemiology

The first step in epidemiology is conducting a public surveillance of any outbreaks of diseases. “Surveillance is the ongoing systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data that is related to health issues” (CIDP, 2010). This information once it is analyzed and interpreted will be used to reduce cases of human mortality and improve the health of people. The main goals of carrying out surveillance is detect outbreaks and public threats, detect infectious diseases, monitor the health trends in the target location and also monitor infected individuals Surveillance data can be collected from birth and death registry’s and hospital discharge records (CIDP, 2010).

The next step will involve carrying out a case definition. Setting up surveillance for epidemiological research will involve creating a case definition. This definition will be based on applying selection criteria for the case. Case definition will also involve the type of population or people that will be put under the research which in our case will be teens. Case definition will also involve looking at the location of the target population and the duration of the disease outbreak in that location as well as what measures have been put in place to control the disease (CIDP, 2010).

The next step in the epidemiology process will be determining the type of epidemiological method to use in analyzing the population. There are two methods which are descriptive epidemiology and analytical epidemiology. Descriptive epidemiology deals with the study of the distribution of health related events. It involves making comparisons for specific outcomes of the disease. These comparisons will lead to the search for explanations as pertains to the disease outbreak which will finally lead to the drawing of conclusions. Analytical epidemiology deals with studying the determinants that cause health related events or illnesses. This method will involve generating hypotheses from the descriptive analysis and then designing concepts that will be used to test the hypotheses. Afterwards conclusions will be made from the analytical studies (Jekel, 2007).

After deciding which epidemiology method to use the next step will involve looking at the measures of occurrence which is the time, rate, risk and prevalence of the disease in the target population. Measures of occurrence will be described by the age of the infected person, their gender and ethnicity as well as risk factors. Teenagers and young adults are known to be the riskiest people in terms of contracting and transmitting diseases. Other measures will be prevalence measures as well as measures of association (Katz, 1997).

Recent epidemiological data has shown that sexually active adolescents are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases when compared to adults. The statistics according to Kaiser Family Foundation (2006) showed that approximately one in four sexually active teenagers contracted STDs each year. The most common STDs that were contracted were Chlamydia, trichomaniasis and human papillomavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 35% of 13 to 19 year olds and 29% of 20 to 29 year olds were infected with HPV. In 2000, 6.2 million new HPV infections were recorded with 74% of this population between the ages of 15 to 24 years old infected with HPV.

Descriptive Epidemiology

The type of epidemiological method to be used in this study in the event if an outbreak of HPV is descriptive epidemiology. The process of descriptive epidemiology occurs when cases of the disease are described by epidemiologists to help them identify the extent of the outbreak in the population. Descriptive data is collected on the target population by looking at a person who will represent the public that will get the disease. The descriptive data will include the age, sex, ethnicity and personal status of the individual person. The data will often involve comparisons between different populations and locations (Ahrens & Pigeot, 2005).

Describe the relationship of the disease to various levels of prevention

Once a HPV pathogen enters a cell, an infection occurs which allows the virus to be transmitted. The time between the active infection and the time when the disease is clinically detectable is difficult to notice for the person infected with the disease. Some strains of the HPV disease are known to promote the growth of tumors during the course of their treatment. These strains are the early genes E6 and E7. The proteins in these types of HPV work by inhibiting the tumor suppression medication. Other effects of HPV are genital warts and cervical cancer in women. HPV is mostly transmitted by men therefore a prevention method would be the prophylactic vaccination of infected males. In the case of women, a HPV-16/18 vaccination was proposed that could reduce the lifetime of cervical cancer cases by a margin of 61.8% (Jekel, 2007).

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Ahrens, W. & Pigeot, I. (Eds) (2005). Handbook of epidemiology. Berlin, Germany: Heidelberg.

Bonita, R., Beaglehole, R. & Kjellstrom, T., (2006). Basic epidemiology. 2nd Edition. India: World Health Organization.

Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness (CIDP) (2006). The epidemiologic approach: Steps to public health action. Web.

Jekel, J.F. (2007). Epidemiology, biostatistics and preventive medicine. Philadelphia, US: Saunders, Elsevier.

Kaiser Family Foundation (2006). Sexual Health Statistics for Teenagers and Young Adults in the United States. Web.

Katz, D.L. (1997). Epidemiology, biostatistics and preventive medicine review. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Merill, R.M. & Timmreck, T.C. (2006). Introduction to epidemiology. Ontario, Canada: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Sexuality and You (2010). Human Papilloma Virus: what is HPV?.Web.

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