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Informer: HIV, hepatitis B virus not transmitted by saliva

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 9:59 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

Is it possible to catch hepatitis or AIDS from kissing a person who has it or drinking after them? What kind of serious diseases can you get from kissing or drinking after a person?

Both HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and the hepatitis B virus — which is more infectious than HIV — move from one person to another via blood, semen and vaginal fluids, not saliva.

Neither a casual kiss nor drinking after an infected person is likely to result in transmission of either virus, but deep, open-mouth kissing between an infected person and an uninfected person — both of whom have cuts or open sores in their mouths — could lead to infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies.

“No one has ever gotten HIV through casual kissing, such as between parents and children. It is possible, but extremely unlikely, for HIV to be passed during ‘deep kissing,’ ” reads the website of the New York state health department.

“There has been just one reported case of this kind: a woman became infected through deep kissing with a man with AIDS whose gums often bled after brushing and flossing his teeth; after this activity, the couple often engaged in deep kissing and protected sex. … Both the man and the woman had gum disease that may also have contributed to the woman becoming infected. It is important to note that in this situation, HIV is not passed through saliva, but rather through direct blood-to-blood contact.”

How the viruses that cause other forms of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, are transmitted, according to the CDC’s website:

Hepatitis A — ingesting fecal matter, “even in microscopic amounts,” via “close person-to-person contact with an infected person,” including “when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects”; “sexual contact with an infected person”; “ingestion of contaminated food or drinks.”

Hepatitis C — coming into contact with infected blood via “sharing of contaminated needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment”; “sexual contact with an infected person”; “birth to an infected mother”; “needlestick or other sharp instrument injuries.”

Hepatitis D — transmitted via infected blood. “HDV is an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate and only occurs among people who are infected with the Hepatitis B virus,” reads the CDC’s website.

Hepatitis E — rare in the United States. “Hepatitis E virus is usually spread by the fecal-oral route. The most common source of infection is fecally contaminated drinking water,” reads the CDC site. “In developed countries sporadic outbreaks have occurred following consumption of uncooked/undercooked pork or deer meat. Consumption of shellfish was a risk factor in a recently described outbreak.”

Influenza; infectious mononucleosis, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus; meningitis; and colds are among the diseases that can be passed by kissing or drinking after others.


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The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email

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