[Question #6182] HPV transmission %

18 months ago
Hi, I have had a normal active sex history, college, etc, with numerous partners.  Now I may have been exposed to a HPV and I am trying to figure out what the % risk is for my partner.  Starting with my history, from my reading it looks like I have about a 75% chance of being exposed to HPV with no symptoms, in college, years ago.  The new encounter I had was oral sex, her to me (so what is the probability (%) of HPV transmission there).  Next, if i was exposed, what is the probability of me fighting it off (%), finally, what is the probability that my partner will fight it off (%).    How would you characterize the risk to my partner of contracting HPV?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
18 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services. Assuming you did not mean to post or pay for two similar questions, I am deleting the other one and will ask the forum administrator to credit the posting fee.

You're asking common but difficult questons. I'll start by pointing out that with "a normal active sex history, college, etc, with numerous partners" you undoubtedly have already been infected with HPV, perhaps a few times. I would put that chance at more like 90%, not only 75%. Even if you have now had sex with a known infected partner, it does not raise the overall chance you have (or have had) HPV any higher than it already was. Second, and especially important, oral sex uncommonly transmits HPV, so there's little chance you have a new infection on account of your recnt exposure.

There are no solid data on the odds of HPV being acquired after any single exposure. It's probably pretty high -- but not from oral sex. But if you were infected, probably you'll never know it:  probably at least 90% of HPV infections never cause warts or other visible symptoms. Finally, IF your recent partner had oral HPV, and IF you were infected -- both of which are unlikely, for the reasons already discussed -- I would still say the risk to your current partner likely is low. Assuming she has also been sexually active in the past, as you have been, she probably has also been infected with HPV, perhaps more than once. Her risk of having HPV, or of having a future problem from it (warts, abnormal pap smear) is no higher on account of your recent sexual activities than it was otherwise.

Assuming you're still fairly young, especially if under age 26, and if your new partner is in the same age range, you should both consider getting vaccinated against HPV. It provides 100% protection against the 9 most common HPV types that cause disease (warts or cancer) -- although not against any of those types with which you already have been infected.

Having and transmitting genital HPV is a normal, expected, unavoidable consequence of being sexual. Happily, the large majority of infections are harmless and cause no symptoms or disease. Still, vaccination is wise to reduce the chance that you and your partner(s) will be in the minority who do develop important health problems.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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18 months ago
Thanks for the reply, a couple of follow up clarifications.  I am beyond the vaccination age and the encounter was at a massage parlor in asia.  I am assuming that the woman there had HPV, but could use a clarification there, would this be a common infection for her?

Finally, IF all of the IFs result in me having been exposed, what is the safe sex waiting period for myself and my partner if we want to fully minimize any risk? we are (other than this encounter) monogomous.  

Thank you
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
18 months ago
Once HPV is acquired, typically the infection is active, and probably transmissible, for at least a few months and often up to two years. Some infections remain active indefinitely, or periodically reactivate. Therefore, there is no "safe" interval after which transmission cannot occur. Whehter or not someone has symptoms (e.g., appearnace of warts) makes no difference -- that is, it's the same with entirely asymptomatic infections.---
18 months ago
Hi, final clarification.  Given my history, how would your characterize the risk of me transmitting HPV to my partner by kissing?  If I did carry HPV, is kissing a concern?


H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
18 months ago
HPV is rarely if ever transmitted by kissing or performing oral sex. That't not to say it can't happen. But this is like worrying about whether you might get a common cold someday. It's not worth any worry at all or any further thought.

That completes the two follow-up comments and replies included with each question, and so ends this thread. i hope the discussion has been helpful.
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