How Is the HPV Virus Transmitted?
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is an incredibly common virus, with an estimated 79 million Americans currently suffering from it. It affects the growth and development of skin and mucous membranes, which can lead to warts and sometimes cancers (most commonly cervical, anus, penis, and throat).
A lot of people don’t even know that they have the virus. Many strains of HPV often have no physical symptoms, and most cases will go away within two years of contracting it, without requiring medical intervention. This means that a lot of people will not know that they are infectious, and may unwittingly be spreading the virus.
There are two different ways that HPV can be transmitted:
- Sexual transmission
Most cases of HPV are sexually transmitted. In fact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. Vaginal, anal, and oral sexual contact can all lead to virus transmission, and many of the sexually transmitted strains of HPV can lead to cancer or genital warts.
- Non-sexual transmission
Although sexual transmission is the most common way to contract HPV, it can also be transmitted via non-sexual skin to skin contact. For example, infected mothers can transmit HPV to their babies while giving birth, but there is also evidence to suggest that HPV DNA can be found in the placenta and amniotic fluid of mothers, so the baby becomes infected even before birth. There is also a risk (albeit minimal) that infections can occur in a hospital setting, where equipment such as a transvaginal ultrasound probe is not properly disinfected, leading to cross-contamination of patients.
How can I avoid getting HPV?
Once you understand the ways in which HPV can be transmitted, it becomes easier to learn how to prevent transmission, so that you don’t get infected. Follow these steps to make sure that you are doing all that you can to avoid the virus.
Firstly, refrain from touching anyone that is showing physical signs of HPV. In most cases, HPV can be identified by warts on the hands and elbows, as well as on feet. If you are engaging in sexual activity with someone, you may also be able to notice the presence of genital warts, a good indication of the presence of HPV. Because HPV is transmitted via skin to skin contact, you should try and refrain from all touching - you can still contract the virus even if you do not have intercourse.
Always use some form of protection such as a condom or dental dam when having sex with someone. This physical barrier can help prevent the spread of HPV.
It’s important to remember that many cases of HPV do not show any symptoms. People might not display any physical signs of the virus, but can still be contagious. This is true for HPV that is transmitted through skin to skin contact, as well as through sexual activity. Because of this, you must always use preventative measures, not just when you can see physical signs of HPV. This is especially important when engaging in sexual activities with others because sexually transmitted strains of HPV can cause the most significant health problems associated with the virus, such as genital warts and different types of cancer.
If you have a cut or lesion, it’s always a good idea to cover it, especially if it is on a part of the body (such as the hand) that may come into direct contact with the virus. Damaged skin is a risk factor for contracting HPV because it makes it a lot easier for the virus to enter the body.
If I have HPV, how do I avoid transmitting it to others?
Remember, if you have the virus, you should be doing all that you can to avoid spreading it to others as well. This means taking the necessary precautions before sexual activity and trying to manage any physical symptoms (such as warts) as much as possible to reduce the chance of infecting others.
Even if you do not have any physical symptoms of HPV, you should be getting tested just to be sure. At the moment, there is no common test that can determine the presence of HPV in the body, but there are tests to find cancerous cells that may have been caused by the virus. All sexually active women should be having regular pap smears, which is a screening tool for cervical cancer. One of the most common causes of cervical cancer is HPV, and it affects the growth of epithelial cells in the cervix, which can lead to cancerous abnormalities. Undergoing regular pap smears will not only reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer, but it can help you to recognize that you may possibly have HPV if you receive an abnormal test result. You can use this information to then take appropriate precautions when engaging in sexual activity with others.
There is currently no cure for HPV, but you can help your body to build up an immune system response to it. Boosting your immune system means that your body can form a response to it quicker, getting rid of the virus before it has the chance to develop into potential cancer. Everyone’s immune system is different, but there are ways that you can make sure it is responding to infections as quickly as possible. This includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising frequently, and getting enough sleep so that your body can heal. This not only helps you to get rid of the virus quicker (thus reducing the risk of transmitting it to others), but it also helps to prepare your body for potential future exposure to other strains of HPV, so your immune system is ready to fight them as well.
Supplements are also a great way to help strengthen your immune system, whether you already have contracted the virus, or want to try and reduce the effects of potential future infections. Supplements such as Papillex have been designed specifically to aid your body’s response to HPV. It provides you with nutrients that you may not get from your average diet, but have been proven to help fight against HPV infections, maximizing the efficiency of your body’s response.
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