About Hepatitis

From the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis and other foodborne illness outbreaks.

Chapter 3

Transmission of Hepatitis A

How does hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is a communicable (or contagious) disease that often spreads from person to person. [11] Person-to-person transmission occurs via the “fecal-oral route,” while all other exposure is generally attributable to contaminated food or water. [11, 16]

Food-related outbreaks are usually associated with contamination of food during preparation by a HAV-infected food handler. [6, 7, 12] The food handler is generally not ill because the peak time of infectivity—that is, when the most virus is present in the stool of an infected individual—occurs two weeks before illness begins. [12]

Fresh produce contaminated during cultivation, harvesting, processing, and distribution has also been a source of hepatitis A. [12, 25] In 1997, frozen strawberries were the source of a hepatitis A outbreak in five states. [15] Six years later, in 2003, fresh green onions were identified as the source of a hepatitis A outbreak traced to consumption of food at a Pennsylvania restaurant. [25] Other produce, such as blueberries and lettuce, has been associated with hepatitis A outbreaks in the U.S. as well as other developed countries. [3, 4]

HAV is relatively stable and can survive for several hours on fingertips and hands and up to two months on dry surfaces. [11, 17] The virus can be inactivated by heating to 185°F (85°C) or higher for one minute, or disinfecting surfaces with a 1:100 dilution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) in tap water. [8, 13, 24] It must be noted, however, that HAV can still be spread from cooked food if it is contaminated after cooking. [12]

Although ingestion of contaminated food is a common means of spread for hepatitis A, it may also be spread by household contact among families or roommates, sexual contact, or by direct inoculation from persons sharing illicit drugs. [12, 17] Children are often asymptomatic, or have unrecognized infections, and can pass the virus through ordinary play, unknown to their parents, who may later become infected from contact with their children. [11, 18, 22]

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The Incidence of Hepatitis A Infection

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Symptoms of Hepatitis A Infection

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