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Transmission

Hepatitis A is transmitted via the faecal-oral route. That means that faeces (poo) needs to get into the mouth for transmission to occur. This most often happens where food, water or equipment for preparation or serving of food becomes contaminated with sewerage. It can also happen when handling nappies, towels, wipes, or other item contaminated with infected faeces. Sexual practices where the mouth of one partner comes into contact with the anus of another (such as rimming) are also a risk for transmission of the virus.

Hepatitis A infection is not very common in Australia with only 300-500 infections per year. It is more common in some groups, however many people who contract the virus have no risk factors. Hepatitis A is more common amongst:

  • Children and workers in childcare centres and preschools;
  • Men who have sex with men;
  • People living in close quarters in facilities such as residential homes for the intellectually disabled and prisons;
  • People who inject drugs.

Hepatitis A is far more common in poorer countries where the sewerage system and water supplies are not reliable.  Therefore, food and water can become contaminated with sewerage. Many people from poorer countries contract hepatitis A in early childhood (with few symptoms) and have life-long immunity. Travelers from Australia to poorer countries who haven’t been exposed to the virus as children are at risk of contracting hepatitis A.

 

Hepatitis D is only transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. The blood of an infected person needs to enter the blood stream of a non-infected person. For more information on blood-to-blood contact, see the transmission page in the hepatitis C section of this website.

 

Hepatitis E is transmitted via the faecal-oral route. That means that faeces (poo/shit) need to get into the mouth for transmission to occur. This most often happens where food, water or equipment for preparation or serving of food becomes contaminated with sewerage. It can also happen when handling nappies, towels, wipes, or other item contaminated with infected faeces. Sexual practices where the mouth of one partner comes into contact with the anus of another (such as rimming) are also a risk for transmission of the virus.

Hepatitis E infection is very rare in Australia with only 10-30 infections per year and sometimes can be mis-diagnosed as hepatitis A. Hepatitis E is more common in poorer countries where food and water supplies can become contaminated with sewerage.