Is Hepatitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Some Types of Hepatitis Virus Can Be Spread During Sex

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Some types of viral hepatitis can be transmitted through sexual contact, in addition to being transmitted via other routes. Each type of hepatitis virus has a different risk of being transmitted through sex.

Hepatitis B Is a Blood-Borne Disease That Can Be Sexually Transmitted

Hepatitis B virus is the type of hepatitis most commonly linked with being sexually transmitted, as it is present in semen, body fluids, and blood that are shared during unprotected sex.

It is also transmitted through sharing needles or razors and other blood exposure, such as from mother to baby during birth. Its primary route of transmission is through blood and body fluids and it isn't transmitted through other routes. You can't catch it from a toilet seat or from casual contact with any object an infected person has simply touched. The good news is that hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine.

Hepatitis A Is Spread in Many Ways

Hepatitis A is spread easily by casual person-to-person contact and by food or water contaminated by the feces of infected people. This is called the fecal-oral route or the hand-to-mouth route. You can be infected with hepatitis A by many ways that don't require sharing body fluids or needles. Intimate contact during sex can result in transmitting hepatitis A, especially anal/oral contact, but it definitely isn't limited to that kind of contact.

There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A.

Hepatitis C

The sexual transmission of hepatitis C has generally been considered very rare, and that is not considered to be a major mode of transmission for the virus. Hepatitis C virus is not easily transmitted through sexual contact. Usually, hepatitis C virus is transmitted through needle-sharing blood exposure during the use of injection drugs and to a much lesser extent through exposures in health-care settings.

Some cases of hepatitis C infection have been reported via occupational and perinatal exposure.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that studies have found that sexual transmission of hepatitis C can occur. The risk is very low among heterosexual couples in regular relationships.There is an increased risk for people who have multiple sexual partners and for HIV-infected persons. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Reduce Your Risk of Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

To help reduce your risk of getting hepatitis sexually, use a male condom with every act of vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. Learn how to use condoms appropriately to prevent body fluid exposure during sex. This will also reduce your risk of other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and genital herpes 

Talk with your health care provider about getting a vaccine (an injection of a drug that you get when you are healthy that will protect you from getting sick) for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These immunizations have been standard for many years. Be aware that while they may reduce your risk for hepatitis, they won't reduce your risk for other STDs.

You should still use safer sex precautions as a line of defense against STDs.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral Hepatitis. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/

Tohme RA, Holmberg SD. Is sexual contact a major mode of hepatitis C virus transmission? Hepatology. 2010;52(4):1497-1505. doi:10.1002/hep.23808.​​

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