Are Genital Warts Contagious – who knows?
Something health professionals often get asked is “are genital warts contagious?” Not everyone knows the answer to that, but it’s an important question. Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are rising in many areas and knowing how they happen is the best way to avoid them.
The short answer is that, yes, genital warts are infectious. In fact they can be transmitted quite easily. This is one reason why they’re becoming common. Genital warts are caused by a virus – in fact several of a family of viruses that all go under the common name of Human Papilloma Virus. Some members of the family can cause dangerous diseases, such as cervical cancer. The types that cause genital warts aren’t that serious, but the warts themselves are unattractive and can even be painful or irritating. It’s also possible to become infected with several types of the virus at the same time, so if you take risks with warts you could end up with more serious problems too. At any one time 10% of the population is carrying one or more types of HPV.
Are Genital Warts Contagious – How Did This Happen?
The HPV virus can be caught from anyone who’s already infected with it. The most common way for this to happen is through sex, especially sex where penetration takes place. Penetration isn’t completely necessary though, so when it comes to catching genital warts there’s no such thing as safe sex. It’s also possible for the virus to be passed on through non-sexual touching and even by sharing bath towels. If someone is carrying the virus they’re infectious all the time, so don’t think there’s no risk just because you can’t see any warts – are genital warts contagious? – Yes even when none are active.
Because the virus is passed on so easily and it’s not always possible to tell who’s infected, it can be very difficult to avoid. The best option is an HPV vaccine. The most common one is Gardasil, which is mainly intended to protect against cervical cancer in women but also vaccinates against the viruses that cause genital warts. The vaccine has to be given before infection; it won’t help if you’ve already caught genital warts. Condoms give some protection but are a long way from 100% effective. They seem to work better at protecting men from catching the virus and don’t do a lot to protect women. A better choice for women is a personal lubricant that contains the chemical carrageenan; this can inactivate the virus before it infects you. Good hygiene also gives some protection but not enough to rely on.
HPV is an extremely common infection and there’s no foolproof way of guarding against it. Vaccination is the best option and anyone who’s had Gardasil is probably a safe partner, but you should always take other precautions as well. Not only are genital warts contagious, they can be very unpleasant too.