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Is Food Poisoning Contagious to Others? Find Out Here

Is Food Poisoning Contagious to Others? Find Out Here

While we know food poisoning comes from eating contaminated food, is food poisoning contagious to others?

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, manifests after consuming contaminated food. Common causes include viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea usually occur a few hours after eating contaminated food. The illness can be mild or severe, depending on the cause.

Is food poisoning contagious to others?

Food poisoning is contagious to others. The transmission of food poisoning can happen through direct or indirect contact with the primary sources of the virus, the contaminated food.

However, certain viruses can spread person-to-person, or through secondary transmission. These include E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, and hepatitis A.

How does it spread?

Viruses that cause food poisoning are commonly transmitted from person to person through the “fecal-oral” route. This is when tiny amounts of infected feces touches the mouth. For instance, this may occur when an infected person does not wash their hands after using the bathroom, and then proceeds to touch other surfaces that are accessed by other people.

The following situations can cause the transmission of foodborne illness, caused by norovirus and hepatitis A, to another person:

  • Vomiting. Vomiting is one of the symptoms of food poisoning. The tiny particles from the vomit can land on the food of another person and contaminate it. This may result in the other person consuming contaminated food.
  • Unwashed hands. People infected with norovirus can spread the virus by not washing their hands after using the bathroom or vomiting. The tiny particles from the vomit or feces on their hands are transferable through shaking hands with other people and touching objects or other surfaces.
  • Sexual Contact. When a sex partner has a food poisoning infection, 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.

The usual medium of the transmission of food poisoning is the hands. It starts whenever people interact with infected people, or the surfaces that person has touched, and then touching their mouth.

Preventing the spread of food poisoning

Is food poisoning contagious to others? Now that we know this is the case, 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. Hot or warm water is essential for washing hands as pathogens die at high temperatures. Killing the pathogens through meticulous cleaning of hands can prevent food poisoning.
  • 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 for preventing food contamination and the spread of food poisoning among the consumers of the food.
  • Avoid preparing foods when feeling sick. When the symptoms occur, avoid working with food. Let the symptoms tone down before getting back to food-related works.
  • Clean surfaces. When someone vomits, clean the objects and surfaces immediately. Wear rubber gloves and use bleach-based disinfectant. Clean the area for at least five minutes, and 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

Is food poisoning contagious to others? Yes, food poisoning is contagious and transmissible to other people. 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.


6 Common Foodborne Illnesses & How to Prevent Them, https://www.hawaiipacifichealth.org/healthier-hawaii/safety-corner/6-common-foodborne-illnesses-how-to-prevent-them/

Accessed April 28, 2021

Food Poisoning, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20356230

Accessed April 28, 2021

Foodborne viral infections, https://www.ifst.org/resources/information-statements/foodborne-viral-infections

Accessed April 28, 2021

Can You Get Food Poisoning From People Instead of Food?, https://www.consumerreports.org/foodborne-illnesses/can-you-get-food-poisoning-from-people-instead-of-food/

Accessed April 28, 2021

Norovirus, https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/transmission.html

Accessed April 28, 2021

Viral Hepatitis, https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#B1

Accessed April 28, 2021

Hepatitis A and Food Service Workers (infectious hepatitis), https://health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/hepatitis/hepatitis_a/food_service_workers_fact_sheet.htm

Accessed April 28, 2021


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Written by Shienna Santelices Updated May 19
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel