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Is Hepatitis Contagious? Here's What You Need to Know

Is Hepatitis Contagious? Here's What You Need to Know

Is hepatitis contagious? This is a question that comes up pretty often when people talk about this disease.

In order to find out whether or not hepatitis is contagious, we have to understand what causes this disease, and how it spreads from person to person. Read on to learn more.

What is Hepatitis?

The word hepatitis refers to an infection of the liver, usually caused by a virus. Though, there are rare cases wherein hepatitis can be caused by another health condition, toxins, and alcohol use.

With regard to viral hepatitis, the most common types are hepatitis A, B, and C. Despite their names, these diseases are actually caused by different viruses, and this means they can infect people differently. So it is important to be aware of the different types of hepatitis, so that you can better protect yourself from being infected.

Is Hepatitis Contagious?

Now, with regard to the question of “Is hepatitis contagious?”, both hepatitis A and B are highly contagious diseases.

For hepatitis A, the virus can spread either through person-to-person contact, or through contaminated food or drink. For example, kissing, sexual contact, or simply being in close personal contact with someone that has hepatitis A can be enough to spread the virus.

It’s also possible for hepatitis A to contaminate food or drink. Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been recorded in places where a number of people consumed products that were contaminated with the virus. However, these cases are much more common in places where hepatitis A infection is more common.

A person with hepatitis A can transmit the disease for up to two weeks before their symptoms start to appear. After recovering from the disease, people are immune against the virus, which means they can no longer be infected in the future.

Hepatitis A is not always considered a serious illness, as some people only experience mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all. But for the elderly, and people who have liver problems, hepatitis A can quickly become a serious problem, so it should never be taken lightly.

What About Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B, just like hepatitis A, is also highly contagious. The main form of transmission for hepatitis B is through blood, where high concentrations of the virus can be found. It can also be found in other fluids of the body, as well as tissues, albeit in much lower concentrations.

The most common way that people get infected with hepatitis B is through direct contact with infected blood. This means that sharing needles, using contaminated scalpels, contact with open sores or wounds, and accidentally ingesting blood can transmit the disease.

Surfaces that have been contaminated with blood can also spread the disease. So it is important to clean and disinfect these surfaces properly to avoid outbreaks.

Hepatitis B can also be present in a person’s saliva, though there have been no recorded cases of hepatitis B being spread by sharing utensils or drinking vessels.

However, hepatitis B found in semen and vaginal fluids can cause an infection. So it is important to always wear protection during intercourse in order to avoid not just hepatitis B, but other STDs as well.

Hepatitis B can be a short-term illness, but some people develop long-term problems even after recovering from the disease.

How Can it be Avoided?

Hepatitis might be contagious, but this does not mean that it can’t be avoided.

Here are some things that you can do to lower your risk:

  • Get vaccinated. There are hepatitis vaccines available that can give you immunity to these diseases. However, these vaccines won’t work if you are already infected with hepatitis.
  • Make sure to cook your food thoroughly, and ensure that your drinks are safe and free from contamination.
  • Wear protection when having sexual intercourse.
  • When traveling, take note of whether the country has a high number of hepatitis cases. If so, be extra careful of the food you eat and make sure to keep your hands clean at all times.
  • If you’re working in a place that handles contaminated blood, be sure to follow the proper safety protocols.

Key Takeaways

Hepatitis A and B are highly contagious diseases. But by following the right safety measures, and getting vaccinated, you can eliminate the risk of being infected.

Learn more about Other STIs and STDs here.

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

Sources

Hepatitis B : OSH Answers, https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/hepatitis_b.html, Accessed April 14, 2021

What is Hepatitis A – FAQ | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#:~:text=Hepatitis%20A%20can%20be%20spread,virus%20before%20they%20feel%20sick., Accessed April 14, 2021

Hepatitis A, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-a, Accessed April 14, 2021

Hepatitis A – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-a/symptoms-causes/syc-20367007, Accessed April 14, 2021

Viral Hepatitis A and E | Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hepatitis/viral-hepatitis-a-and-e, Accessed April 14, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jul 06
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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