How Can HPV Be Transmitted?
Over fifty percent of the population is likely walking around with some sort of HPV virus. Depending upon the strain, the virus can be transmitted from person to person in a number of ways.
The most benign strains, those which cause various forms of warts on hands, feet, elbows and knees, can be transmitted fairly easily. This can happen when someone with the warts on their hands uses a doorknob, and someone else comes along and uses it as well. Or, it can happen when someone with “plantar warts”- those on the bottom of the feet – is walking around in a locker room unwittingly leaving traces of the virus on the floor; others can pick up the virus on their own feet by walking in the same place.
Luckily, these strains are fairly easy to avoid by using common-sense hygiene. When in a public place, wash your hands frequently. Take precautions especially in locker rooms to keep yourself clean and avoid walking on the floors without something covering the soles of your feet.
While a sexually-transmitted virus like HIV or herpes is a little more difficult to spread – for example you can’t get these diseases from a toilet seat – the HPV virus is far easier to spread. In the case of the strains of HPV which cause genital warts for example, all it takes is skin-to-skin contact.
The genital, or sexually-transmitted, forms of the HPV virus can be transmitted during sexual activity. This would include intercourse, but also oral sex and anal sex. HPV transmission is possible through heterosexual contact or homosexual contact. (In fact, gay and bisexual men are at a statistically greater risk for HPV- related health issues!)
The only way to protect yourself 100% from genital strains of HPV is total abstinence. However, come common sense can go a long way toward greater lowering your risk. Using a condom can protect you much of the time, although it will not protect you all of the time from HPV. You are at greater risk of contracting HPV when you have multiple partners, or when you are with a person who has had multiple partners.
Keep in mind that the HPV virus often shows no symptoms, so there is not a way to tell if someone with whom you are sexually intimate may pass the virus on to you! If your partner has genital warts, you may be able to tell. But often you will have no clue that the virus is present. Chances are, your partner may be carrying the virus without knowing it. For this reason, it is wise to assume that a sexual partner is indeed carrying the virus, and protect yourself.
Keeping in mind the statistical prevalence of the HPV virus and taking some common sense measures to protect yourself is the best way to stay healthy. Regular health screening will assure that your physician can find any possible early signs of HPV complications because they become serious.