[Question #5324] HPV Risk from unprotected oral/ General HPV Queries

23 months ago
Hi Doctors,

My questions are based on HPV and Herpes generally. I had unprotected oral sex about 6 weeks ago with an Asian csw.

Please note I do suffer from anxiety so these questions are coming from a place of fear and I'm sorry to bug you.

In Australia, they do not test for HPV at sex clinics and so I cannot find out specifically and the vaccine is very expensive.

Background - I had unprotected oral no other sex was performed. Only touching afterwards.

My other queries are:
1. What are my chances of getting HPV from this encounter and what would be my symptoms as of now if I did have it?
2. If I do have HPV, if I urinate and touch my penis then touch other parts of my body, will it spread HPV everywhere?
3. In terms of protecting friends and family, if I do have HPV, if I touch my genitals then touch door knobs and handles, how long does the HPV last of external items? If you can provide a specific time frame.
4. How long does HPV and Herpes virus last on clothes such as underwear and pants?
5. Do I need to wash my hands with antibacterial soap every time I go to the toilet or is washing with water and normal soap ok?
6. How long before I know I have herpes and what are the symptoms?

Thank you for any reply you provide and I will not ask questions like this again.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
Welcome back to the forum. However, looking through your discussion with Dr. Hook 3 months ago, all these questions were answered, or the answers are obvious from that discussion. 

Australia's federally suppored sexual health centres are, collectively, the world's best STD and sexual health clinicxs. They don't test for HPV because all experts know there is no need for it, outside testing along with pap smears. That's also the policy in most STD clinics in the US, including mine. You can assume you have HPV, since over 90% of all people get it at least once, often several times. Happily, most infections never cause symptoms and are cleared by the immune system. Vaccination is the way to go, to prevent infection with the 9 HPV types that cause 90% of health problems (warts and various cancers). But even without immunization, the vast majority of infected people do not develop cancer or other important health problems.

I'm surprised to hear you can't get vaccinated against HPV or that it would be too expensive. Australia has by far the world's highest rate of HPV vaccination, which has been achieved by public support. I don't know the funding procedures, but I'll bet you can be immunized. Your local SHC should be able to advise you. (If you are in Sydney or Melbourne you have access to the best of the best among your country's SHCs.)

1) There is little or no risk of genital HPV from any single oral sex encounter or by genital touching, fingering, etc.

2) Spread of HPV to other body areas (medical term auto-inoculation) is rare if it occurs at all. Even in people with large numbers of genital or anal warts, almost none also get warts or other evidence of HPV anywhere else on their bodies. Don't worry about it.

3) Similarly, household members of people with genital type HPV infections never become infected despite years of sharing bathrooms, kitchens, towels, and even clothing. The same is true of herpes.

4) Nobody ever gets HPV or herpes because of shared clothing, towels, etc. Since it doesn't happen, the biological reasons (e.g. how long the viruses survive) don't really matter. Obviously nobody should share other persons' underwear without laundering first. But it wouldn't matter even if this happens.

5) Everybody should wash hands after using the toilet and normal soap is fine. The main reason is to protect against intestinal infections, not STDs -- even without washing, nobody transmits HPV or HSV in this manner. No sex means no transmission risk -- period, no exceptions.

6) Symptoms of new herpes infections generally show up within a few days and always within 3 weeks. The only herpes type for which you could have been at risk is HSV1, and more than half of adults are immune to HSV1 because of childhood infections. With no symptoms after 6 weeks, you can be confident you didn't catch herpes.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear. Do your best to look at genital HPV as a normal, expected, unavoidable part of human life -- except for persons with lifelong celibacy. It's nothing to lose sleep over.

23 months ago
Thank you for your reply.

A couple of questions?

Is there a time frame for how long herpes or HPV survives outside the body?

What are the symptoms for herpes? How would I know i have it.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
HPV or HSV can die after a couple of minutes in some circumstances and may survive hours or days in others, depending in drying, temperature, etc. But see my reply to question 4 above:  It doesn't matter! Just because HPV or HSV may be present doesn't mean it can be caught by contact from a contaminated object. These viruses have to be massaged into the tisues for infection to take hold. You probably don't rub your genitals on doorknobs for several minutes.

The main herpes symptoms are blister like sores that then scab over. You can google "herpes symptoms" for more detailed information; or read authoratative sources, such as information provided by the American Sexual Health Association, the sponsor of this forum (www.ashasexualhealth.org, then look for STD/STI information); or CDC (www.cdc.gov/std).
23 months ago
thanks no other questions
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
I hope the conversation has been helpful. Best wishes and stay safe.---