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Is Food Poisoning Contagious to Others? Find Out Here

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated Oct 30, 2022

Is Food Poisoning Contagious to Others? Find Out Here

Food poisoning occurs when we eat contaminated food. It happens often particularly to those who eat unkept food. Now you might wonder, is food poisoning contagious?

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, manifests after consuming contaminated food. Common contaminants include viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Eating such foods will render you ill by making you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These usually occur few hours after eating contaminated foods. It can be mild or severe depending on the cause.

Is Food Poisoning Contagious to Others?

Is food poisoning contagious to others? Well, the clear answer is generally, no. Most types food poisoning are not contagious. But there are few exceptions. Some types of foodborne illnesses can be passed from person to person.

Most of the time, food poisoning is more pronounced if it happens due to a gathering or events, as it may affect different individuals. For this reason, some may deem it contagious. But in reality, only a few types of foodborne illnesses can be passed unto others. Moreover, many foodborne illnesses also share similar symptoms with bacterial or viral infections that can be very contagious. Hence, the confusion.

But let’s tackle those few exception—the ones that are actually contagious.

The transmission of food poisoning can happen either through direct or indirect contact with the contaminant through the food. Among these contaminants include E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, and hepatitis A.

How Does it Spread?

Contaminants that cause food poisoning are commonly transmitted from person to person through the “fecal-oral” route. It happens when tiny amounts of feces touch the mouth. For instance, this occurs when an infected person did not wash their hands properly defecating, and then proceeds to touch surfaces that are accessed by other people. But this is just a single scenario. There are quite a few more ways deemed how the contaminants spread.

The following situations can cause the spread, particularly by norovirus and hepatitis A virus, from one person to another:

  • Vomiting. As one of the common symptoms of food poisoning, it is easily one of the most common ways the transmission happens. When a people touches a vomitus of an infected individual, he or she may acquire the virus.
  • Unwashed hands. People infected with norovirus can spread the virus by not washing their hands after defecating or vomiting. The tiny particles from the vomit or feces on their hands are transferable through shaking hands with other people and touching other surfaces.
  • Sexual Contact. When a sex partner is infected, transmission may occur, especially during oral-anal sex.
  • Taking care of people with foodborne illness. The virus may spread to the person taking care of the infected individual during changing diapers, or cleaning up vomit and stool.

Basically, it spread when an infected discharge (e.g. vomitus, feces) is touched by another person, and the infecting agent had access to the mouth of that individual.

Preventing the Spread of Food Poisoning

Here are some ways to prevent the spread of food poisoning:

  • Wash hands thoroughly. Use soap and warm water when washing hands. Wash your hands after getting out of the bathroom, after taking care of a patient, and before food preparation. Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear gloves before touching food. In restaurants, food workers should wear gloves and avoid touching the food with bare hands, even if the worker is not sick. It is a safety measure to prevent food contamination.
  • Avoid preparing foods when feeling sick. When symptoms occur, avoid working with food. Let the symptoms subside before getting back to food-related work.
  • Clean surfaces. When someone vomits, clean the exposed surfaces immediately. Wear rubber gloves and use bleach-based disinfectant. Clean the area and if possible, perform double-disinfection.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. After cleaning the area with vomit or feces, take charge of the laundry. Wash the clothes that have been possibly splashed with vomit. The particles and viruses can transfer through the clothes. Washing clothes thoroughly prevents virus transmission to other people.

Key takeaway

Though most types of food poisoning is not contagious and transmissible to other people, there are few exception. Transmission may occur through exposure to an infected person’s vomit or stool.

Take preventive measures if you interact with someone infected with food poisoning. Lessen the spread of the virus by being responsible and following proper hygiene practices.

Learn more about Foodborne Infections here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated Oct 30, 2022

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