Can You Get HPV From a Toilet Seat?

How HPV Is Transmitted and How to Prevent Getting It

Can you get HPV from toilet seats
Credit: Sean Ellis Collection/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

"A friend of mine told me that you can catch HPV from a toilet seat. Is this true?"

Fortunately, it is a myth that you can catch HPV from a toilet seat, but it still remains a common belief among many people. The human papillomavirus (HPV) cannot be transmitted through sitting on a toilet seat. Because viruses cannot survive long outside of the body, HPV cannot be transmitted this way.

How Can You Get HPV?

HPV is transmitted through sexual skin-to-skin contact from an infected partner.

No penetration is required to contract HPV. HPV can be transmitted through:

  • vaginal intercourse
  • anal intercourse
  • oral sex
  • touching your infected partner's genitals and then your own
  • sharing sex toys with an infected person without disinfecting first
  • genital-to-genital contact (same or opposite sex)

HPV can be passed from person to person even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms normally associated with HPV.

Even if you have had sex with only one person, you are still at risk for getting HPV. Symptoms can also develop years after you have had sex with someone who that was infected, making it difficult to know exactly when you first became infected.

Preventing HPV

Because no penetration is needed to transmit the virus, prevention of HPV can be difficult. Condoms provide limited protection because infected parts of the genitals may still be exposed, even if a condom is worn. A recent study has shown that wearing a condom correctly and every time you have sex may reduce a woman's HPV risk by 70 percent.

For sexually active individuals, wearing a condom and limiting the amount of partners may reduce the risk of transmission.

Since there are many different types of HPV, there are now vaccines developed for a few strains of the disease. Some HPV types can lead to further health problems such as genital warts and cancers.

The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is a safe and highly effective means of protecting against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given to the recommended age groups. The vaccine is approved for both males (ages 9 through 15) and females (ages nine through 26). Gardasil is FDA approved as the first vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer, cervical, vaginal and vulvar lesions, and genital warts. Gardasil is effective against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, and is given in three shots over six months— it's very important to get all three doses. 

Talk to your doctor to see if you would benefit from the HPV vaccine.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women. Accessed 27 March 2016. 

Winer, Ph.D., Rachel, James P. Hughes, Ph.D., Qinghua Feng, Ph.D., Sandra O'Reilly, B.S., Nancy B. Kiviat, M.D., King K. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., and Laura A. Koutsky, Ph.D.. "Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women." New England Journal of Medicine 354:2645-265422 Jun 2006.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. Accessed 27 March 2016.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gardasil (Human Papillomavirus Vaccine) Questions and Answers - Gardasil, June 8, 2006. Accessed 27 March 2016

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