Hepatitis B Transmittal
My college roommate just told me that she has hepatitis B. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that she has used my razor. She claims that she's not contagious, but I've heard otherwise. Who is right?
Actually, despite what anyone claims to the contrary, hepatitis B is
indeed contagious. Like HIV, this virus is transmitted through
contact with body fluids. It has been found in blood, saliva, semen,
vaginal secretions, and breast milk. It can be transmitted through
blood transfusions, sex, needle sharing with IV drug use, and yes,
possibly razors, too. In fact, official recommendations for avoiding
transmission include not even sharing toothbrushes, as brushing
does cause microscopic tears in the gums and organisms can
enter the bloodstream. All personal items should be separate.
Hand washing after any exposure to body fluids can also minimize
Whether or not your roomie is actually capable of infecting others
is unknown as far as you can confirm. Hepatitis B can be
transmitted whenever there is it present in the blood of the patient.
It may be some comfort to know that only 1-2% of those with
Hepatitis B become what is called asymptomatic carriers. These
are people who are no longer actively sick, but are capable of
While this may all sound pretty grim, there is certainly a bright side.
For one thing, it is possible to be immunized against the disease
before an exposure to it. It is even possible to avoid the disease if
immunized up to two weeks after an exposure. Immunizations may
be costly for now, but are readily available in doctors' offices and
public health clinics alike, so it may not be a bad idea to check out
the stance of one's health plan on the issue, too.
As for this specific case involving the use of a razor, while it is
obviously a good idea to get tested for hepatitis B, the chances
are quite slim that the disease was actually transmitted. After all,
the virus causing the disease won't survive long when exposed to
air. As the best advice (in addition to seeking immunization from
the college health clinic), get disposable razors and hide them
from that roommate . . .or perhaps even consider "going natural"
and doing without the razors altogether. And hey, even when
there's no disease involved, roomies since the beginning of time
have done the "I would really appreciate it if you didn't use my
Interestingly enough, while AIDS transmission and death rates are
blazed across the news on a regular basis, few people know that
hepatitis is spread more frequently than its more famous cousin is.
In fact, hepatitis causes more deaths each year than AIDS.