The different methods of hepatitis transmission depend on the type of hepatitis that a person is infected with. One way to catch it is through contact or ingestion of fecal matter or contaminated foods and water. Another way is via an exchange of bodily fluids such as in childbirth or through blood or semen.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, and although the disease is usually caused by a virus, it can also be caused by alcohol and certain medical conditions or medications. There are five types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E, all of which are infectious. Although each type is caused by a different virus, each spreads in similar ways.
With hepatitis A and E, the virus is present in an infected person’s fecal matter and blood. In most cases, hepatitis transmission for these two types happens when a person comes into contact with or ingests even the smallest trace of the fecal matter. The transfer usually occurs through the mouth. This means a person might catch it if he or she drinks contaminated water, eats food touched or prepared by an infected person with unwashed hands or, in some cases, engages in sexual activity. Rarely, a blood transfusion can also be responsible for the spread.
The viruses in hepatitis B, C and D are found in bodily fluids like blood and semen. Contact with infected blood can cause hepatitis transmission. In addition, contaminated bodily fluids can transfer from one person to another by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A woman with the disease can also potentially pass it to her child during birth.
Knowing the causes and risk factors of hepatitis enables a person to take precautions to decrease his or her chances of acquiring a hepatitis transmission. For example, in certain countries where sanitation is poor, hepatitis A is common. A person who plans on visiting such a country should receive a vaccination before travel. It is important to note that vaccines can prevent a person from contracting diseases, but they do not exist for all types of hepatitis.
Even when a hepatitis transmission has occurred, it is possible to experience no symptoms. In fact, a person with hepatitis B or C often does not show symptoms at first. Over time, the infection can lead to serious liver damage. Symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice and nausea. A doctor should be able to diagnose hepatitis through procedures such as blood tests, liver biopsies and physical exams.