[Question #4460] Worried about hpv 2

29 months ago
Dear doctor,

I know this might sound stupid or crazy but as I mentioned I suffer from severe ocd and overthinking.

A few week ago I posted this:

"I am a so worried for a while now and I can't seem to put it out of my head.
A few years ago I was on vacation with some friends and I was laying in bed with underwear. A friend of mine walked by and he might accidently touched my ballsack with his finger (very brief, accidental touch, 1 - 2 seconds at most) because we were messing around for fun(my underwear was a bit short). I am not sure that he touched my skin, but I think he did.
Now, i didn't have a wart on the location where he accidently touched me, but i might had a little one on the top of my penis, so my hpv infection was active.

Is there any chance I passed on the virus (either low-risk or high-risk). Or should I put this event out of my head (this is giving me a lot of stress because I don't want to be responsible for any long-term complications in the future)"

Dr Hook replied that this was virtually no risk and my worry was comparable with worrying about getting hit by a meteor. I accepted that fact but because of my anxiety I kept looking around on this website and came across this: "however there are MANY high quality studies which show that persons who have never had sex do, on regular occasions have HPV infection. (text from: [Question #1389] Can I get hpv any other way than having sex with an infected person?).
Can you please help me to clarify this? Isn't this conflicting? Or is this not applicable on my situation?

I'm just feeling very desperate because in my mind I gave my friend HPV which can lead to cancer which I am responsible for. Should I warn him for this?

Thank you in advance and sorry if i'm overreacting.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
29 months ago
Welcome back, but sorry you found it necessary. These questions are pretty much identical to those discussed witih Dr. Hook just a couple weeks ago, or sufficiently similar that the answers are obvious. You must understand full well that this is your OCD talking.

I agree with Dr. Hook's evaluation and advice. There is no chance you acquired HPV from the events described. And you're obviously over-searching the web, and the statement you quote indeed is not applicable to your situation. While it is true that some HPV infections are diagnosed in people who deny plausible sexual exposures, most of those probably involve denial by people who have something to hide (e.g. from a spouse who believes s/he was his or her only partner, or maybe sexual abuse somewhere along the line. There may be a few cases that truly are not sexually acquired, but that doesn't mean that the fleeting, trivial contact you describe carries any significant irks.

Perhaps it will also help you to know this (although it is possible that because of your OCD, it will just inflame your fears):  Assuming your'e not a virgin, i.e. have had sex, perhaps with several partners, you can safely assume you have (or have had) genital HPV. Half of all sexually active people are infected within their first 3 lifetime sexual partnerships, probably 90% after 5 or more partners. Therefore, most people probably have had several HPV infections along the line. Most of them are cleared by the immune system, but some persist or recur. At any point in time, up to half or more of all humans have detectable HPV DNA in the genital area. So it is entirely possible you have had HPV and could someday transmit to a partner. OTOH, that partner also will have had HPV and will not be at any increased risk because of sex with you than anyone else. In any case, the chance you do or do not have HPV are entirely unrelated to the non-exposure event several years ago.

My advice is to stop searching online about HPV. If your concerns persist, the most reasonable next step would be not to seek out more information (reassuring or otherwise) about HPV, but to check back with the counselor or other provider who manages your OCD. (If you have no such provider, it's time to find one!) I suggest it from compassion, not criticism. In the meantime, I hope these comments have helped.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
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29 months ago
Thank you doctor for your reply,

Just to be sure:"There is no chance you acquired HPV from the events described." - did you mean "pass it on" instead of "required"? Because I'm not scared of getting the virus myself but I'm scared to pass it on. So there is no risk I passed it on?

And a second question (I read a lot about it on this forum, but i'm not sure what to do), 1 year ago, I had unprotected sexual intercourse with someone. the intercourse took place 12 - 13 months after my last wart (so a bit more than 1 year).  Do I need to tell/ warn them about the possible effects of hpv?

I will take your advice about ocd in consideration and will search for help, thank you
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
29 months ago
"There is no chance you acquired HPV from the events described" refers to the chance you have HPV from the events on vacation several years ago. I'm aware your main concern is transmission to others, but you cannot transmit something you don't have. If you had no chance of catching HPV, then that event cannot put other persons at risk of infection from it. Got it?

As I said, everybody gets HPV, and any single sexual event has little effect on that person's risk. Nobody ever has an obligation to tell people about past possible HPV exposures. Telling your partner from a year ago that you had sex with someone else and in theory could have HPV is nonsense. It would not change his risk of infection. And if you follow this thought logically, every person who ever had sex witn anyone would have to tell all future partners s/he might have HPV. But everybody knows that anyway. Don't say anything to htat person.
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29 months ago
Okay , thanks for this information, but I think there is a misunderstanding, can you please reread my first question (with al respect):

My question was if it was possible for my friend to catch my hpv-infection in the way described in my first question. On vacation, he accidentely touched my scrotum (I had hpv at that time) so i am worried that he got the virus if he later touched his own genitals. That is my biggest concern.

Is this also what you meant? (I just want to make sure)

Thank you again,
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
29 months ago
OK, now I've got it. Sorry I misunderstood earlier.

Neither HPV nor any other STD is transmitted by hand-genital contact. In addition, in general the STDs transmitted skin-to-skin (HPV, herpes, syphilis) must be vigoriously massaged into the tissues, otherwise infection doesn't take hold. Microscopic injury may even be required. That's the initial infection with all three of these occurs primarily at sites of maximum friction during sex. Certainly the brief, fleeting contact you describe was no risk to your friend. And anyway it sounds like there might have been no contact at all; and even if there was, your wart was on the penis, not your scrotum where you may or may not have been touched.
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29 months ago
Thanks doctor for your reply,

I waited a few days before responding because I knew some further ocd driven question would pop up in my mind.

So te finalise:

- you talk about friction needed, but does this also means when my friend accidentally touched my scrotum and than touched his own genitals he can "rub" the virus in the skin of the genitals with his hand (in my mind it goes like this: hand touches my infected skin of scrotum --> hand is infected --> infected hand touches , or rub in the case of this question, own skin of genitals --> skin of genitals is infected)? Or is this not possible? 
- secondly, dr Hook stated that a wart doesn't make any difference for this kind of contact, do you agree with that statement?

This will be my final question (I hope)

Thank you,
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
29 months ago
That scenario is too far fetched to be remotely realistic. Nobody ever shows up with new genital warts who did not have direct sexual exposure (genital-genital contact) with an infected person.

I don't understand the second question. But if you're asking whether the contact described would be equally low risk if there were contact with a wart versus a non-wart HPV infected area of screen, I would agree.

Threads normally are closed after two follow-up comments and replies. I left this open because of my initial misunderstanding, but now it's time to close this discussion. Please don't be tempted to start a new round of questions on these topics. Repeated questions on the same exposure, risks, etc are discouraged; and the answers will not change. And there is no scenario you will come up with (OCD or not) that would possible change the assessment you have had here.

I do hope the discussion has been helpful. Keep working with your health care provider(s) on that OCD problem!
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