Is Hepatitis Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Most people with hepatitis C don't have any symptoms when they acquire the hepatitis C virus infection, however, about 1/4th of those infected will have symptoms like

  • abdominal pain,
  • fatigue,
  • fever,
  • joint pains,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea, and
  • vomiting.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver. "Hepatitis" is a general term that refers to any inflammation of the liver. There are many illnesses and conditions that cause inflammation of the liver. For the purpose of answering the question of whether or not hepatitis is contagious, these illnesses will be broken into two categories; infectious and noninfectious hepatitis.

Is hepatitis contagious?

Infectious causes of hepatitis usually are, but not always, contagious. For example, hepatitis caused by viruses usually is contagious although many types are transferred mainly from person to person by blood to blood transfer (individual sharing needles, acupuncture, sexual contact, and organ transplantation).

Some infectious parasites (such as Plasmodium spp, Schistosoma spp) cause hepatitis in individuals, but are not contagious person to person.

Most noninfectious causes of hepatitis are not contagious. Hepatitis caused by alcohol poisoning, medications, or toxins or poisons are not transmitted from person to person.

So, the answer to the question "is hepatitis contagious?" depends upon the type of hepatitis.

How will I know if I have hepatitis?

Symptoms of hepatitis vary somewhat depending on the type of hepatitis. Most infectious hepatitis that is contagious may have slowly developing symptoms like

In general, the incubation period from time of initial viral infection to development of symptoms ranges widely from about two weeks to six months.

Symptoms of hepatitis that develop from noncontagious causes (such as alcoholic hepatitis) may have very similar symptoms described above. Noncontagious hepatitis also may cause increased abdominal size and fluid in the abdomen. The time to develop symptoms may take months to years, but may develop quickly (days) in some toxin-induced hepatitis. A health-care professional can order tests to help determine the underlying cause of a person's hepatitis symptoms.

Serious or severe symptoms of hepatitis (for all types) may include

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/6/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors