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How Long Can the Hepatitis Virus Live Outside the Body?

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Updated July 14, 2009

Question: How Long Can the Hepatitis Virus Live Outside the Body?
Answer: The viruses that cause hepatitis can live outside the body and be infectious for certain periods of time. A good rule of thumb is that wet material is infectious and dried material is much less infectious. Here's a closer look at each one of the five hepatitis viruses:

Hepatitis A Virus

The hepatitis A virus, or HAV, is relatively hardy. In good conditions, it can survive outside the body for months. HAV can survive certain acids and some heat. For a period of time and under certain conditions, HAV can survive in sea water, dried feces and live oysters.

Hepatitis B Virus

The hepatitis B virus, or HBV, can still be infectious for up to a week outside the body.

Hepatitis C Virus

The hepatitis C virus, or HCV, can live outside the body for up to 4 days. However, many experts think it usually survives up to 16 hours at room temperature.

Hepatitis D Virus

This virus needs help from the hepatitis B virus to be infectious, so it only infects someone with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis E Virus

This virus is spread similar to the hepatitis A virus and causes acute disease similar to the others.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 8, 2006. Viral Hepatitis.

Sjogren, MH. Hepatitis A. In: M Feldman, LS Friedman, LJ Brandt (eds), Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 8e. Philadelphia, Elsevier, 2006. 1639.

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