Great question, and you’re not alone in being confused about just how HPV is transmitted. HPV is spread by skin to skin contact: with genital virus, this can involve vaginal, anal, or possibly oral sex with someone who has this infection. The virus may also be transmitted by fingers from one person’s genitals to another. HPV is not transmitted through casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands, or sharing a bathroom or shower with someone. Similarly, hot tubs and swimming pools are not a risk for HPV transmission (unless a couple has sex while they’re in there!).
Rest easy about hot tubs and pools, but while we’re on the topic keep in mind that up to 80% of sexually active people are estimated to have one or more HPV infections in their lifetimes. Most cases of HPV are harmless and are cleared naturally by the immune system, but it’s very important for women to have regular Pap tests (most experts recommend beginning Pap test at age 21, even if you’ve never had sex). If you’re 26 or under, you can also be vaccinated against HPV (but you still need Pap tests!).
–Beth Colvin Huff, MSN, FNP-BC