Hepatitis Home > Hepatitis A Transmission

Hepatitis A transmission typically occurs through what is known as "fecal-oral transmission." If an uninfected person puts something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected person, even if it looks clean, infection can occur. Common modes of hepatitis A transmission include consuming contaminated food or water, sharing contaminated utensils, and sexual contact with an infected person.

How Does Hepatitis A Transmission Occur?

Hepatitis A (hep A) is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person infected with hepatitis A (even though it may look clean). The virus is shed in the feces of infected people, and this type of transmission is known as fecal-oral transmission.
Common ways that hepatitis A transmission occurs include:
  • Household contact with an infected person.
  • Sexual contact with an infected person (more common in promiscuous homosexual men).
  • Eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Cold cuts and sandwiches, fruits and fruit juices, milk and milk products, vegetables, salads, shellfish, and iced drinks are commonly implicated in outbreaks. Contamination of foods by infected workers in food processing plants and restaurants is also common.
  • Sharing eating utensils that are contaminated.
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in the mouth.
Hepatitis A transmission is common throughout the developing world, where infections most frequently occur during early childhood, and usually have mild symptoms or none at all. This is because transmission of the virus is enhanced by poor personal hygiene and overcrowding.
In developed countries, hepatitis A transmission is less common, but community-wide outbreaks still occur in some areas of the United States. These outbreaks are common in institutions, crowded house projects, prisons, and in military forces in adverse situations.
Casual contact, as in the usual office, factory, or school setting, does not spread the hepatitis A virus.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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