Warts are caused by a common virus known as the human papillomavirus or HPV. This virus has over one hundred different strains. Specific strains of HPV will produce warts on different parts of the body. For example, the strain of HPV that causes genital warts is different from the strain of HPV that causes warts on the hands. HPV is easily spread from person to person. But are warts contagious? The best way to answer this question is to examine exactly how warts form and spread.
How Are Warts Formed?
The HPV virus has a life cycle. The type of HPV that causes warts on the hands will get into the epithelial or outer layer of skin through tiny cuts or abrasions. Once this virus is inside the tissue, its genetic material is transported to the core of the skin cells. The virus will then begin to copy itself at the astounding rate of 10 to 200 genomes per skin cell.
The main host cell will now begin to divide, and it will look different than the original epithelium cells. These new cells contain genetic material from the HPV virus. This rapid cell division and growth are what causes the characteristic bumps associated with warts. However, it may take several months before these bumps are large enough to be detected.
How Are Warts Spread?
Why are warts contagious? According to the Mayo clinic1, the skin of the wart will shed. These skin cells contain the HPV virus. This virus can be passed on to anyone who comes into contact with the infected skin cells. Therefore, those who share personal grooming items or walk barefoot in public places put themselves at risk for getting warts.
Warts can be spread in the same manner to other parts of the body. A single wart on the finger can spread until there are several warts on the fingers and hand. Warts that are on the hand can be spread to other parts of the body.
How to Reduce the Risk of Spreading Warts
First of all, warts should never be shaved, clipped or combed over. This will release infected skin cells, which will spread the virus. Never pick at the warts because this will spread the virus. Those who bite their fingernails should refrain from doing so if they have warts near the fingernails. Warts love a moist environment so it is important that hands are kept dry. Always wear shoes when walking in public places. This is especially true for public swimming pools and locker rooms.
Children and teens are more susceptible to catching warts from others because their bodies have not been exposed to HPV long enough to build an immunity. Children also play in close proximity with each other and are constantly sharing toys and other items. It is a good idea to teach children about the importance of good hand hygiene from a very early age. Frequent hand washing will reduce the risk of warts and other illnesses.
How to Treat Common Warts at Home
Common warts that are found on the hands and fingers can usually be treated at home. There are over the counter medications that can be purchased to treat these types of warts. These medicines contain salicylic acid, which can be very effective at eliminating warts. There are also wart treatments that can be purchased online, especially a growing number of natural ingredient wart removal creams that claim to remove hand, finger, feet warts along with warts on the face.
Many doctors now acknowledge the use of duct tape as a wart removal remedy. Placing duct tape over the warts and leaving it there for several days has been proven to be an effective method of wart removal. It is also a fairly inexpensive wart treatment.
If there are a lot of warts or if the warts are not responding to over the counter treatment or home remedies, it is wise to see a doctor or dermatologist. A doctor has methods he can use that will treat stubborn warts. However, as long as the HPV virus lives in the body there is always a chance the warts will return after treatment.
So are warts contagious? The answer is yes, because the HPV virus can be spread easily.