It is just part of human nature that when people hear you have a particular disease the first thing they ask is, “Can I catch it?” Everyone is wary of catching a disease and so it is a fair question.
Now that I have been diagnosed as an H.pylori sufferer, I have had to answer the question numerous times so I thought it a good idea to put you in the picture.
First of all H.pylori is endemic in countries where there is poor sanitation and where families live in cramped and unhealthy conditions, but the infection is no longer concentrated in these developing countries, it has become endemic in all societies around the world. So this means that everyone is open to contracting H.pylori at anytime, anywhere and from anyone even if they appear to be healthy and not only from a person who is ill as a result of an H.pylori infection.
You notice I referred to ‘a person who is ill’: I say this because many infected people do not immediately, or ever suffer from the infection, they don’t feel ill nor do they develop all the problems associated with H.pylori. Only a very small percentage of people feel any adverse effects from having H.pylori bacteria in their systems.
Remember, many people have this bacteria in their systems, but they don’t ever require treatment. Being infected does not necessarily mean that you will get sick. So the whole question of contagion becomes a bit complicated. Everything depends on how efficient your immune system is.
If you have a strong and healthy immune system your body will deal with the bacteria and you will never even know that these little microbes entered your system. I suppose we should really rephrase the question and ask “If I have a weak immune system, will H.pylori make me sick?”
Is Helicobacter Pylori Contagious?
So let’s look at the answer to this more enlightened question. Is H pylori Contagious?
The short answer is ‘Yes’ H.pylori is infectious and there are a number of ways that you can be infected with the bacteria. However, do bear in mind that there is no need to become paranoid about it, after all we humans have been living with this particular bacteria, as well as millions of other little microbes, for thousands of years and we are certainly not doing too badly in its presence. So it’s not just a question of whether it is contagious, but whether or not you are a person susceptible to the possible complications brought about by an H.pylori infection.
In answering the question of how you can pick up the bacteria I must add that although I can list a number of possible ways of getting the H.pylori bacteria, not one of these ways have been found to be definite as no-one really knows. However, as infections tend to be found in families, I shall describe the ways in which is thought that H.pylori is transmitted from one person to another.
This means getting up close and personal with someone. Families and loved ones are the first in line. Let’s take a look at the probable set of questions you would like to ask.
Can I give it to my baby?
I’m sure you have seen many mothers pick up a baby’s dropped comforter/dummy and pop it into their mouths before happily returning it to their baby’s mouth. Well, that’s one way of passing it onto your baby, if you, are infected. Even kissing your cute kid can pass on the bacteria.
So, what about saliva?
Sure! Body fluids are the best transmitters so sharing a glass or cup, eating utensils or perhaps eating with utensils that have not been thoroughly washed will do it. And of course, there are those prolonged and delicious lovers’ kisses.
But once again, don’t get paranoid about it. You can’t suddenly stop living a normal and loving life. Again, I must repeat many, many people have been infected over the thousands of years that we have been on the planet and most people have never felt ill and will never get ill, even if they have picked up the H.pylori bacteria.
What about sexual activity?
Naturally, because the bacteria can be transmitted through the exchange of body fluids, you can be infected with H.pylori bacteria if you enjoy sex with an infected person. But once again you need to be sensible and not afraid. The infection is not like HIV or any other nasty sexually transmitted disease; it is a bacteria, not a disease, that finds its way into your body in this way.
I realize that you must be very worried, so I must underline the fact that H.pylori is not a disease. H.pylori is the name given to a bacteria. If this bacteria gets into your system, it is more than likely that it will never worry you, and you, and those around you, will never experience any ill effects. Only those who are particularly susceptible to the side effects of having the bacteria in their systems will experience certain problems, and the severity of those problems once again depends on the individual.
Is there a contagious period?
If you know someone who suffers from the effects of an H.pylori infection the next question is whether there is a time when the possibility of transmission is likely and, is it followed by a period when that person is no longer likely to infect another person.
The answer to this question is quite simple. If a person has had an infection and no longer has it, then the infectious period is over. If H.pylori bacteria are still present in person, then the bacteria can be passed on.
Can I pick up the bacteria from a person having antibiotic treatment?
If a person suffering from an H.pylori infection is on antibiotics he/she the bacteria is still present, until the antibiotic therapy has been completed. Even after the completion of antibiotic treatment, nothing is certain until that person has been re-tested. So, it is still possible for him/her to transmit the bacteria to another person until he/she is given the ‘all clear’ (negative test results).
What happens to a person if they do not receive treatment?
It is important to remember, once again, that many people do have the H.pylori bacteria in their systems but never suffer any ill-effects, so receiving treatment is never an issue.
For those who have the H.pylori bacteria in their systems and are suffering as a result, then if these sufferers don’t receive treatment some things can happen. Beginning with the first signs of gastric ulcers to a full blown and very nasty disease.
Let me take you through what is likely to happen when a person with a weak immune system is invaded by the H.pylori bacteria.