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Can You Get Viral Hepatitis from Oral Sex?

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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.

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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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