Warts are among the most common skin diseases known to man; fortunately, most of are harmless. What’s most interesting about them is that more often than not, the man or woman who sees them appear on his or her own skin usually has no idea where they came from.
The fact is the root cause of all warts is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Papillomavirus is one of the most common with more than 200 strains capable of infecting human beings. The dozen or so strains that cause of warts in humans affect various parts of the skin, depending on the specific strain.
Skin-to-Skin is the Easiest
Exposure to HPV is most easily accomplished with skin-to-skin contact involving someone else who’s already infected. That’s because HPV is highly contagious and can live on the skin, under the right conditions, for months or years at a time. While some viruses, like HIV, last only a few seconds when exposed to air and sunlight, HPV can live for a very long time as long as it has the right temperature and moisture amounts.
Shaking hands with someone who has common warts on his fingers, for example, will almost always expose you to the HPV infection. Whether or not you develop common warts on your hands is really a matter of whether or not your immune system will be strong enough to fight off the virus. If not, and you have even the smallest scratch or tear in your skin, you’re quite likely to develop common warts yourself.
The Mechanics of Skin-to-Skin Transmission
The mechanics of skin to skin transmission of HPV are actually quite simple. If you should come into contact with the skin of an infected person, at an area of his or her body where the virus resides, it can make the transition to your skin through the contact. That virus can easily live on your skin long enough to wait for an opening where it can enter and begin its annoying work. It’s made even easier by the fact that it’s nearly impossible to have skin that remains 100% unbroken all the time.
Most of us scratch, cut, poke, or tear our skin on a daily basis. We don’t see it because most of the time it’s very small. Nonetheless, the virus only needs a small opening to get in and begin multiplying. So every time you come in contact with another person’s skin you’re risking HPV exposure – if that person is already infected.
That’s not to say that if you shake hands with someone who has plantar warts on his feet you are destined to find common warts on your hands. As long as your skin-to-skin contact occurs in an area where the virus doesn’t exist, you should be okay.
Avoiding the Spread
If you’re the one that’s suffering from warts you can help reduce the spread of HPV by practicing some good common sense rules. First of all, avoid touching the infected area of your skin unnecessarily. When you do need to touch it, to apply medication, for example, wash your hands with hot soapy water immediately. Also, do not share bath towels, clothing, dishes, or any other objects with others until your warts are gone.
The most important thing to remember is that some types of warts have an incubation period that could last several months to a year. Once your warts develop to a point where they can be seen, you will remain contagious until they are gone. Exercise caution so you can avoid skin to skin contact with others.