Although hepatitis A and hepatitis B both affect the liver and develop from related viral causes, their pathology and risk factors are markedly different. Hepatitis A transmits from person to person via a fecal-oral pathway. In this process, a person typically comes into contact with the virus by ingesting food or water that has come into contact with the solid waste of an infected person. Other means of transmission include eating contaminated fruits and vegetables or ingesting raw shellfish from contaminated waters.
Hepatitis B, by contrast, is significantly less contagious. To become infected, a person must come into contact with the bodily fluid of an infected individual. This may occur during sexual contact or via the sharing of objects that transmit bodily fluids. Such items include shared needles, unsterilized tattoo equipment, or razors and similar personal care items. A woman infected with the hepatitis B virus may also pass along the infection to her unborn baby, though there are treatments available that may help to prevent transmission.