[Question #5545] Indirect contact

20 months ago
"Indeed indirect transmission can also occur by innocent contact such as sharing baths or towels." Source below.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042682213003565

That seems pretty cut and dry. I am just really depressed because I thought it was skin to skin contact. I already have anxiety and now my family is in danger if they have used a towel or worn infected clothing.

Could you help me gather some clarification?
Thanks.


Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
20 months ago
Welcome back to the Forum although I note that about a month ago you had an interaction with Dr. Handsfield over much the same topic.  I have read that interaction and agree with Dr. Handsfield's comments.  I have also looked at the brief review paper that you cite above and note the unreferenced (thus potentially author opinion) statement that you mention above.  I do not see them as contradictory.  The article you mention states that genital HPV infections are spread through close contact- this is true.  At the same time, in every large study of incident HPV infections there are typically a very small number of cases which are not easily explained through sexual contact.  We do know that HPV is a hardy virus that can survive for at least a brief period outside of the body and it is conceivable that RARELY exposure to HPV on inanimate objects may occur.  the proportion of such infections in studies, as well as logically is tiny when compared to the transmission through genital contact.  It is not a clinically important problem.

By way of analogy, just because people do occasionally get struck by lightening and there are cases in which persons have had meteorites from space land near them. this does not mean that this is something to worry about beyond application of common sense.  Don't go out into a lightening storm carrying an iron pole, don't worry about meteors from space, and don't share towels, toothbrushes, etc.  OTOH, worry about such occurrences is really not a productive thing to do and worrying about such things only promotes anxiety.  

Finally, while you do not say it, the fact that you refer to an on-line article a month after interacting with Dr. Handsfield suggests to me that you are all too focused on this, perhaps worry entirely too much about HPV (an unfortunate by-product of inappropriate stigmatization and shame related to an infection that nearly everyone has), and please stay off the internet.  So much of what is there is taken out of context, overstated, out of date, or just plain wrong.  Worrying about household, non-sexual transmission of HPV is just not a reasonable concern in today day and age.  Parenthetically, if you are really worried about HPV acquisition (vs. transmission), the single best thing you can do to help yourself is get vaccinated.  .   EWH
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20 months ago
I have also read that the virus can survive on pubic hair. Would this also include pubic hair that is no longer attached to the body? I am thinking of throwing out a pair of my shorts as I am not sure if they may be covered with pubic hair from a floor that may have contained a lot. If it is not a cocern in regards to pubic hair detached from the body, could you provide a reference?

Also, in regards to your last respnse, am I correct in saying that there is a chance to transmit via towels or underwear? Would the virus only live for hours or days on those objects? Or could it be months or years? Would it matter if they were kept in a wet or dry environment? Why is there so much conflicting information about this?

Thanks again
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
20 months ago
I really think you are severely overthinking this.  Just do not let anyone wear your unwashed underwear.  Regular washing in soapy water will remove HPV and any residual HPV present would be rendered inactive by the washing process.

The conflicting information you perceive is more a function of your over reading and over interpreting things than a problem with the "information", internet problems excepted.  There is no realistic data that HPV is meaningfully transmitted on towels or underwear.  With exposure to the environment, the infectivity of the virus diminishes.  "Exposure to the environment" refers to room temperature and environmental drying and the decrease in infectivity is progressive over hours.  Once, again, think this through- if HPV were really all that infectious, people would acquire it through swimming or other activities of daily life.  Get a grip on yourself.  You really are overthinking this.  EWH
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20 months ago
My concern is that if my shorts are covered in pubic hair and are then transferred to another person's underwear, would that be a risk? Do you happen to know if the virus survives on pubic hair that is not actually connected to your body?

I am sorry and planning to get help for obsessive thoughts. Telling me to get a get a grip seems a bit harsh.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
20 months ago
Your characterization of your thoughts as obsessive is correct.  No, there is no realistic chance that your underwear "covered with pubic" hair is going to lead to infection of others is unjustified and unwarranted based on vast day to day experience.  Virus which MIGHT be present on shed pubic hair would quickly become non-infectious, just as it would in the rest of the environment.

This is my 3rd response to your questions.  As per Forum Guidelines, this thread will now be closed without further replies.  In addition, I should warn you that a continuation of this anxiety-driven line of questions may lead to deletion of your questions without a response and without refund of your funding fee.  I wish you the best and strongly encourage you to seek help for your obsessive thoughts.  EWH
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