How Are Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Spread From Person To Person
Like HIV, the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses spread:
- From mother to child: Pregnant women can pass these infections to their infants. HIV-HCV coinfection increases the risk of passing on hepatitis C to the baby.
- Sexually: Both viruses can also be transmitted sexually, but HBV is much more likely than HCV to be transmitted sexually. Sexual transmission of HCV is most likely to happen among gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV.
Hepatitis A: Who Is At Risk
A prime risk factor for hepatitis A is traveling to or living in a country with high infection rates. You can check the CDC’s travel advisories to learn about recent outbreaks. Eating raw foods or drinking tap water can raise your risk while traveling. Children who attend daycare centers also have a higher risk of getting hepatitis A.
How Common Is Hepatitis A
In the United States, hepatitis A has become relatively uncommon. After the hepatitis A vaccine became available in 1995, the rate of hepatitis A infections declined by 95 percent in the United States. The number of reported cases of hepatitis A fell to 1,239 in 2014, the lowest yearly number of cases reported since the disease could be tracked.1 However, the number of reported cases increased to 3,366 in 2017, almost 3 times higher, mostly due to outbreaks among people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness.1 Early reports suggest that the numbers of cases and outbreaks of hepatitis A increased further during 2018 and continue at these higher rates in 2019.2
Hepatitis A is more common in developing countries where sanitation is poor and access to clean water is limited. Hepatitis A is more common in parts of Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe than it is in the United States.
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How Can I Avoid Getting Hepatitis A
There is a safe and effective vaccine that can protect you from getting hepatitis A. The vaccine is usually given in two doses six months apart. The vaccine will give you protection for up to 20 years. A combined vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B is also available. Since up to 40% of the reported cases of hepatitis A occur in travellers, it is advisable to protect yourself with a hepatitis A vaccination six weeks before you leave.
Consider these additional safety precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly especially after using the washroom, before preparing food and before eating.
- Avoid raw or undercooked food.
- If you are travelling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A:
- Drink bottled or boiled water and use it for brushing your teeth.
- Drink bottled beverages without ice.
- Avoid uncooked food including salads.
- Avoid food from street vendors.
- Peel and wash fresh fruits and vegetables yourself.
Treatments For Hepatitis A
There’s currently no cure for hepatitis A. But it usually gets better on its own within a couple of months. You can usually look after yourself at home.
While you’re ill, it’s a good idea to:
- get plenty of rest
- take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, for any aches and pains ask your GP for advice about this, as you may need to take lower doses than normal or avoid certain medications until you have recovered
- maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment, wear loose clothing and avoid hot baths or showers to reduce any itching
- eat small, light meals to help reduce nausea and vomiting
- avoid alcohol to reduce the strain on your liver
- stay off work or school and avoid having sex until at least a week after your jaundice or other symptoms started
- practise good hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water regularly
Speak to your GP if your symptoms are particularly troublesome or have not started to improve within a couple of months.
They can prescribe medications to help with itchiness, nausea or vomiting, if necessary.
For most people, hepatitis A gets better within 2 months and there are no long-term effects.
Once it passes, you normally develop life-long immunity against the virus.
In around 1 in every 7 people with the infection, the symptoms may come and go for up to 6 months before eventually disappearing.
Life-threatening complications such as liver failure are rare, affecting less than 1 in every 250 people with hepatitis A.
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How Can I Protect Myself Against Viral Hepatitis
There are many ways you can reduce your chances of getting hepatitis:
- Get the vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
- Use a condom during sex.
- Don’t share needles to take drugs.
- Practice good personal hygiene such as thorough hand-washing with soap and water.
- Don’t use an infected person’s personal items.
- Take precautions when getting any tattoos or body piercings.
- Take precaution when traveling to areas of the world with poor sanitation.
- Drink bottled water when traveling.
It is very important that you take these preventive measures if you participate in risky behaviors. Take preventive steps, too, if you work in places like a nursing homes, dormitories, daycare centers, or restaurants where there you have extended contact with other people and a risk of coming into contact with the disease.
How You Can Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the world where standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
You can get the infection from:
- eating food prepared by someone with the infection who has not washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
- drinking contaminated water, including ice cubes
- eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
- close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- less commonly, having sex with someone with hepatitis A or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment
Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around 2 weeks before symptoms appear until about a week after symptoms first develop.
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How To Prevent Hepatitis C
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C. Avoiding contact with infected blood is the only way to prevent the condition.
The most common way for people to contract hepatitis C is by injecting street drugs. Because of this, the best way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid injecting.
Treatments can help many people quit. People in the U.S. can call the National Helpline for help with finding treatments.
If a person finds it difficult to stop, they can reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis C by never sharing drug equipment, ensuring a clean, hygienic environment, and always using new equipment, including syringes, ties, alcohol swabs, cottons, and cookers.
People who may come into contact with infected blood, such as healthcare workers and caretakers, should always wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact, or suspected contact, with blood. They should also wear gloves when touching another persons blood or open wounds.
People can also reduce their risk by making sure that any tattoo artist or body piercer they visit uses fresh, sterile needles and unopened ink.
The risk of contracting hepatitis C through sexual contact is low. Using barrier protection, such as condoms, reduces the risk of most sexually transmitted infections.
People who have hepatitis C can reduce the risk of transmitting it to others by:
There are many misconceptions about how hepatitis C spreads. People cannot transmit or contract the virus through:
Hiv And Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Coinfection
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by a virus. Because these infections can be spread in the same ways as HIV, people with HIV in the United States are often also affected by chronic viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people with HIV than among those who do not have HIV. Liver disease, much of which is related to HBV or HCV, is a major cause of non-AIDS-related deaths among people with HIV.
Given the risks of hepatitis B or hepatitis C coinfection to the health of people living with HIV, it is important to understand these risks, take steps to prevent infection, know your status, and, if necessary, get medical care from someone who is experienced in treating people who are coinfected with HIV and HBV, or HIV and HCV.
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Who Is Most Affected
Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can become infected with HAV. The most common risk factors among people with new HAV infections include: 1) drug use 2) having sex with an infected person 3) coming in direct contact with persons who have HAV infection 4) homelessness and 5) traveling to countries where HAV infection is more common.
For countries where HAV infection is common, the risk factors are poor sanitation and lack of clean, safe drinking water.
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is usually spread from person to person, making it highly contagious. However, certain factors can increase your risk of contracting it, including:
- living in an area where hepatitis A is common, including most countries with low sanitation standards or a lack of safe water
- injecting or using illegal drugs
- living in the same household as someone who is hepatitis A-positive
- having sexual activity with someone who is hepatitis A-positive
- being HIV-positive
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How Do You Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A can be spread by sexual contact with an infected person or close personal contact . However, it is most often spread by what scientists call the fecal-oral route. This happens when one person eats or drinks something that has small amounts of fecal matter from another person who has hepatitis A. This can happen by touching something that has the virus on it and then putting your hands in your mouth. It can happen when food is grown, picked, processed or served. Water can also be contaminated.
Mothers do not pass on hepatitis A in breast milk. You cannot be infected with HAV by sitting near to or hugging someone with hepatitis A. It does not spread through coughs or sneezes.
How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will listen to your symptoms and will take a blood test to confirm the diagnosis of hepatitis A. If the test finds immunoglobulin M antibodies, you have an acute hepatitis A. If there are antibodies, but not IgM antibodies, you are immune to the virus either because you had a case of it and recovered, or you got the hepatitis A vaccine.
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Hepatitis A Vaccine And International Travel
Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine before traveling internationally?
All unvaccinated people, along with those who have never had hepatitis A, should be vaccinated before traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common. Travelers to urban areas, resorts, and luxury hotels in countries where hepatitis A is common are still at risk. International travelers have been infected, even though they regularly washed their hands and were careful about what they drank and ate. Those who are too young or cant get vaccinated because of a previous, life-threatening reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine or vaccine component should receive immune globulin. Travelers to other countries where hepatitis A does not commonly occur are not recommended to receive hepatitis A vaccine before travel.
How soon before travel should I get the hepatitis A vaccine?
You should get the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine as soon as you plan international travel to a country where hepatitis A is common. The vaccine will provide some protection even if you get vaccinated closer to departure. For older adults , people who are immunocompromised, and people with chronic liver disease or other chronic medical conditions the health-care provider may consider, based on several factors, giving an injection of immune globulin at the same time in different limbs.
What should I do if I am traveling internationally but cannot receive hepatitis A vaccine?
How Hepatitis A Is Spread By Food Or Water
Food and water can be contaminated by food handlers who have hepatitis A but don’t wash their hands well after using the toilet. Usually, this type of spread is limited to family members or their dinner guests. However, when a restaurant food handler spreads hepatitis A, thousands of people can be exposed.
In developing countries or those with unstable water supplies, the public water supply can become contaminated. This can happen if drinking water comes into contact with hepatitis A-infected sewage. The foods most likely to be contaminated with HAV are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water.
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What Causes Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. You get the virus when you unknowingly eat a small amount of infected feces. This can happen through person-to-person contact, or through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
A person can have and spread hepatitis A, even if that person does not have any symptoms. You are most likely to get hepatitis A from another person when:
- A person who has the virus does not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom
- A parent does not wash their hands properly after changing the diaper of an infected child
- A caregiver does not wash their hands properly after cleaning up the stool of an infected person
- A person has sex with a person who has the virus
You can also get infected with hepatitis A by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Contaminated food and water are more common in developing countries. When traveling in areas where hepatitis A is common, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables, shellfish, ice, and untreated water.
Hepatitis C: What Happens
About 25% of people who get hepatitis C defeat the virus after a short-term infection. The rest will carry the virus in their body for the long term. Chronic hepatitis C can cause very serious complications, including liver failure and liver cancer. There are effective treatments for the virus, though.
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Who Is At Risk
Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can get infected with the hepatitis A virus. In areas where the virus is widespread , most hepatitis A infections occur during early childhood. Risk factors include:
- poor sanitation
- living in a household with an infected person
- being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection
- use of recreational drugs
- travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.
Vaccination Against Hepatitis A
Vaccination against hepatitis A is not routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people.
It’s only recommended for people at an increased risk, including:
- close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
- people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
- people with any type of long-term liver disease
- men who have sex with other men
- people who inject illegal drugs
- people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job this includes sewage workers, people who work for organisations where personal hygiene may be poor, such as a homeless shelter, and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas
The hepatitis A vaccine is usually available for free on the NHS for anyone who needs it.
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Prevention Of Hepatitis A
Preexposure prophylaxis.Hepatitis A is the only common vaccine-preventable foodborne disease in the United States. Hepatitis A vaccine is an inactivated preparation of a cell-culture adapted virus and was licensed in 1995 for persons aged 2 years. More than 95% of adults and children have seroconversion after a single dose of hepatitis A vaccine, and long-term protection is provided by a second dose given 6 months later. Protective concentrations of anti-HAV are measurable in 54%62% of persons by 2 weeks and in 90% by 4 weeks after receipt of a single dose of vaccine. The vaccine’s efficacy is 94%100%, and protection is likely to last for 20 years after vaccination booster doses after the primary 2-dose series are not currently recommended . Recent vaccination may confuse interpretation of diagnostic test results for hepatitis A, because IgM anti-HAV can be detected in some persons shortly after vaccination . However, when tested 1 month after vaccination, < 1% of vaccinated persons had detectable IgM anti-HAV .
How To Prevent Transmission
Between 2% and 6% of adults infected with hepatitis B virus will develop chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and liver cancer, so protecting yourself is important.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe for almost everyone and about 95% effective for providing long-term protection against hepatitis B infection.
While anyone can benefit from the vaccine, people who are at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus because of their work, lifestyle or medical history are strongly encouraged to be immunized. In many countries, babies born to infected mothers get vaccinated at birth. All babies born in the United States are routinely vaccinated.
Hepatitis B immune globulin , is another way to prevent hepatitis B infection in babies born to infected mothers or after exposure to the virus. This uses concentrated antibodies to provide immediate protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is given as a shot and can provide short-term protection against hepatitis B.
Because the hepatitis B vaccine does not protect against HIV, hepatitis C or other diseases spread through sex and contact with blood, it’s still important to keep using basic protective strategies. Practicing safer sex and not sharing needles are recommended even if you’re immune to hepatitis B.
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