I just got a pelvic exam and I have genital warts. I haven't had sex in 9 years. Could I have given myself this virus by touching an infected surface and then touching myself? Could it have remained dormant in my system for 9+ years?
There is no way to answer how long because there just have not been studies to determine this. HPV is very common and many people have it without ever having any symptoms when others have warts or cell changes then less commonly some people have flare ups and even serious health issues.
What is known is that most people who have symptoms will find them gone within 24 months. Some factors as to why you might be having a flare up is that you have had immune system issues, stress, hormonal changes. You can never say never with HPV because there are exceptions but it would be very rare to touch an object then infect yourself. One factor is simple sexual contact, like grinding without clothes or mutual gential touching.
So the simple answer is yes, there is no way to know why, how or when. Just do your best to be healthy, no smoking, limit drinking and start treament early because that means less treatment time usually.
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