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Can You Get Viral Hepatitis from Oral Sex?

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. October 9, 2009

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Make sure you know the facts about how oral sex could transmit the three most common types of viral hepatitis. Please note: explicit descriptions of sexual activity are contained within this article.

The education campaign following the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s has made most people aware that unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, stopping our understanding at that point leaves many questions unanswered, especially regarding oral sex. Since viral hepatitis is contagious and has the potential of being an STD, many people are unsure if any viral hepatitis strains can be transmitted through oral sex.

Illnesses like the common cold and flu are primarily spread through respiratory secretions. Thus, our wellness depends on people covering their noses and mouths then washing their hands after sneezing or coughing. However, preventing the spread of respiratory secretions is insufficient to protect against STDs. This is because the viral particles of most STDs are spread through other bodily fluids. This applies to the three most common strains of viral hepatitis:

  1. Hepatitis A is transmitted when infected feces enters another person’s digestive system. There is an effective vaccine to prevent against Hepatitis A infection.
  2. Hepatitis B can be transmitted through contaminated blood, sweat, tears, saliva, semen, vaginal secretions, menstrual blood and breast milk. There is an effective vaccine to prevent against Hepatitis B infection.
  3. Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood when infected blood of one person enters another person’s bloodstream. There is currently no vaccine to prevent against Hepatitis C infection.

Oral sex refers to sexual activities that involve the stimulation of the genitals with the mouth, tongue, teeth or throat. For the purpose of discussing STDs, the three types of oral sex are:

  1. Cunnilingus – this refers to oral stimulation of a female’s outer genitalia.
  2. Fellatio – this refers to oral stimulation of a male’s outer genitalia.
  3. Analingus – this refers to oral stimulation of the anus.

Oral stimulation of other parts of the body is generally not considered oral sex. Those in long-term monogamous relationships who do not have any contagious illnesses have virtually no risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease through oral sex. For everyone else, the risks of STDs are a major concern, and can only be avoided through education, protection and/or abstinence.

Page 1 2

http://menshealth.about.com/cs/diseases/a/hepatitis_4.htm, How You Get Hepatitis, Jerry Kennard, Retrieved October 1, 2009, About.com, 2009.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/sextrans.pdf, Sexual Transmission of Hepatitis C, Retrieved September 30, 2009, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2009.

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/infections/infectionoralsex.htm, Infection Risk and Oral Sex, Retrieved September 30, 2009, netdoctor.co.uk, 2009.

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9 Comments

  • curious says:

    i have a future partner who has told me thy have hep b but are on meds for it . can i contract it thro oral sex with her

  • mamita says:

    Im afriad my husband just find out he got hep c i got tested and results where neg can it come out later

    • Ethan Davidson says:

      Studies of heteroxexual couples couples where one has hep c and the other dosn’t indicate that in most cases there is no transition. Evan in those rare cases where one person does become Hep C positive, it usualy is with a different genotype, indicating a seperate infection source. Thus, we know that sexual transmision of HCV via heterosexual or lesbian sex is extremley rare. There is a small but real rate of transimison amog men who have AIDS and one also has HCV. This cam usually be prevented by barriored “safer” sex.
      However, partners that live together sometimes engadge in intimacies such as sharing razers or tooth brushes, These should be avoided, as should any contact with the infected person blood, whenever possible.
      Doctors have (mostly) reached consensus that couples in a monogoumous relatioship where one is HCV positive do not need to switch to bariored sex unless they are already using it for some other reason.
      It is true that “having a large number of sex paartners) is considered to be a possible HCV risk factor for women. However, They are not sure why. It may be that women who self report “a large number of sex partners” have other risk factors, such as drug use.

  • Shirazi says:

    hi. My wife has Hepatisis b, but I myself dont. I also had vaccination 20 years ago. my question is that is it possible that I receive this viral disease through cunnilingus? thanks

  • Tim says:

    Your information regarding transmission of HBV is dead wrong. You should refer to CDC….. It CANNOT be transmitted via breast milk, sweat, or Saliva.

    • Annie says:

      Thank you! This page was one of the top results on Google for a query I had regarding Hepatitis. I know that’s no guarantee that it’s accurate, but with this sort of factual, uncontroversial topic, you can typically rely on those first few Google hits.
      It’s not a huge deal in this case — people will only end up being more careful than they need be. But those that attack medical science (the anti-vaxxers, homeopathic potion peddlars, Mercola devotees, those idiots)? Those guys do real harm and they love to seize on this sort of error. To them, it’s proof that “Big Medical” is negligenly ignorant and that a Google University diploma is just as good as medical school when it comes to medical decisions.
      Ugh. I’m overreacting, but I just came over from reading the comments on an article about the MMR and autism. It’s maddening.

  • Ben says:

    Can help c be transmitted by sharing a drink from a glass?

  • nocomis123 says:

    I am a bisexual male, 60 years old. I have had maybe 4 sexual partners (men) in the last year. I have never engaged in anal sex, only oral sex. I have not allowed sperm into my mouth although the last time, the guy came without giving any warning and I ended up with a mouthful of sperm which I spat out within a minute or so. I was horrified to discover, whilst undergoing routine medical tests that I had contracted Hepatitus C. Before the oral sex, I was careful to ensure I had no cuts or ulcers in my mouth or bleeding gums.The test that indicated this was an ALAT blood test – I have been having these tests for years as I am taking very high doses of cholesterol drugs and have ALAT every 6 months as part of liver function tests. Every test prior to this sexual encounter had been well within the ‘norm’ (0-41) but the test some 3 months after the encounter had a reading of nearly 1000! This I believe is conclusive proof that HCV can be contracted through oral sex and I urge eveyone to be VERY careful when contemplating such activity.

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