Can You Get HPV From a Toilet Seat?

How HPV Is Transmitted and How to Prevent Getting It

interior of washroom
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Can you get HPV from a toilet seat? Fortunately, no. It is a myth that you can catch HPV from a toilet seat, but it still remains a common belief among many people. HPV, also known as the human papillomavirus, cannot be transmitted by sitting on a toilet seat because viruses cannot survive long outside of the body.

How Can You Get HPV?

HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact from an infected partner, usually during a sexual activity. It's important to note that no penetration is required to contract HPV—in other words, you can get it even from just genital-on-genital rubbing. 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)

It's possible to have HPV and not realize it. HPV can be passed from person to person even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms that are normally associated with HPV. And even if you have had sex with only one person, you are still at risk of contracting HPV. Symptoms can develop years after you have had sex with someone who was infected, making it difficult to know exactly when you first became infected. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preventing HPV

Since no penetration is needed to transmit the virus, preventing HPV can be difficult. Condoms provide a good amount of protection from HPV, but not 100% protection. That's 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 your number of sexual partners may reduce the risk of transmission.

There are now vaccines available that help protects against a few of the high-risk strains of the virus. It's a good idea to protect yourself as much as possible since certain high-risk strains of HPV that don't go away on their own can lead to health conditions such as genital warts and cervical cancer. 

The HPV vaccine Gardasil is a safe and highly effective way of protecting against diseases (including cancers) that are caused by HPV. 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 (and it's very important to get all three doses). Talk to your doctor to see whether you would benefit from receiving the HPV vaccine.

Also: If you're a woman, make sure that you get regular gynecological exams because a Pap smear and/or an HPV test can help detect the presence of HPV. 

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    Article Sources
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women. Accessed 27 March 2016. 
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. Accessed 27 March 2016.