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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Keeping My Pants On in Florida," I believe further information regarding genital warts should be presented to the public.

Genital warts are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) and may have an incubation period of many years. Conservative estimates state that at least 50 percent of sexually active persons have been exposed to the virus. Therefore, if someone or his/her sex partner has had two or more sexual partners, it is not unlikely that they have been exposed.

Certain types of HPV have been implicated as the cause of both cervical and penile cancer, which is why annual Pap smears and male genital exams are so important.

Since the virus is so prevalent and the incubation period can be so long, it seems more likely that this young man's condition came from his previous unprotected sexually active lifestyle. When this condition is diagnosed in my patients, I strongly encourage them not to place the blame on their current sexual partner, as they may have been exposed many years earlier.

I felt sorry for the young lady the man blamed in his letter. She seemed to be a woman of high moral values, and now she's being blamed for something that may not have been her fault.

She should contact her doctor immediately and schedule a Pap smear if she has not already done so. -- DANIEL E. KONOLD, D.O., CANAL WINCHESTER FAMILY HEALTH, CANAL WINCHESTER, OHIO

DEAR DR. KONOLD: I was not aware that genital warts can have such a long incubation period. I'm sure it will also be news to many of my readers. Thank you for pointing this out.

DEAR ABBY: My older son went golfing in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the fall of 1974, and while he was on the golf course he managed to lose his University of Michigan college ring.

Last fall (1996) he received a telephone call and a letter. It seems a maintenance man found his ring. It had been in the ground for 22 years and had only a slight dent in the band.

Can you imagine how many people had walked over that ground, and how many times a lawn mower had gone over that ring?

Abby, as a longtime reader of your column, I just wanted you to know that there are a lot of nice people in this world -- and miracles do happen. -- ARLENE HORVATH, LINCOLN PARK, MICH.

DEAR ARLENE: If there's anything I have learned from my readers over the years, it's that basic goodness dwells in most of them. And it's very uplifting to receive a letter that affirms this.

DEAR ABBY: Your column in the St. Petersburg Times listed people who managed to succeed against the odds.

I don't know about the rest of them, but your thumbnail sketch of the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was quite inaccurate.

Toscanini was NOT a "second fiddle in an obscure South American orchestra." He was a gifted and superbly trained cellist in an orchestra formed by an Italian impresario for a South American tour.

Toscanini graduated at the top of his class at the Parma Conservatory and as a student was nicknamed "Genio" (genius). In addition to being the principal cellist of the touring orchestra, Toscanini was the opera company's vocal coach and was greatly admired by the singers and instrumentalists. Thus he was exceedingly well prepared and equipped for his impromptu conducting debut at age 19, and for the unique career that followed. -- ANTHONY SKEY, ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.

DEAR MR. SKEY: Thank you for pointing out the inaccuracy concerning Toscanini. Mea culpa!

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