How Genital Warts Spread
HPV is the virus that causes genital warts, a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The most common way to get HPV is by having sex with someone who has HPV. The only way to make sure you do not get genital warts is to avoid having sex at all, or to have sex only with someone who does not have HPV and is only having sex with you. That is, you are in a mutually monogamous relationship.
Because warts cannot be seen sometimes, it is especially important to be careful whom you choose to have sexual contact. The infection can have a long incubation period, meaning months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus and the time a person notices warts in the genital area. Sometimes, the warts can take years to develop.
In women, the warts may be where they cannot be seen--inside the body, on the surface of the cervix (opening to womb or uterus), vagina, or anus. In men, genital warts are not as common. However, they may be seen on the tip of the penis. Genital warts in men might also be found on the shaft of the penis, scrotum, or around the anus. Genital warts rarely develop in the mouth or throat.
Genital warts are very contagious. So you can get them or spread them easily. Genital warts can spread through vaginal, oral, and/or anal sex. It takes about 3 months since time of contact with an infected person to develop genital warts.
Anyone who has sexual contact is at risk for developing genital warts. Actual sexual intercourse is not necessary for genital warts to spread. Genital warts can spread by genital rubbing or heavy petting.
Genital warts can also spread through heterosexual (men and woman), man to man, or woman to woman sexual contact.
Using condoms may prevent you from catching HPV from someone who might have it. However, condoms can't always cover all of the affected skin.
Genital warts do not spread by coming into contact with a toilet seat. But, sharing sexual toys can spread genital warts.