Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that causes inflammation and affect your liver’s ability to function. It is usually transmitted with contaminated food or water or from close contact with an infected person or object.
Symptoms include: Fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain/discomfort (especially on the upper right side where the liver is), low of appetite, joint pain, jaundice and itching.
Most cases of hepatitis A are mild and do not require treatment, and symptoms generally recede in a number of weeks. While a vaccine is available for those at risk, practicing good hygiene is one of the best ways to protect against the disease.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. It results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease. HCV is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.
Who should get tested for hepatitis C?
How is HCV spread from one person to another? HCV is spread primarily by direct contact with human blood. For example, you may have gotten infected with HCV if:
Is there any evidence that HCV has been spread during medical or dental procedures done in the United States? Medical and dental procedures done in most settings in the United States do not pose a risk for the spread of HCV. There have, however, been some reports that HCV has been spread between patients in hemodialysis units where supplies or equipment may have been shared between patients.
Can HCV be spread by sexual activity? Yes, but this does not occur very often. See section on counseling for more information on hepatitis C and sexual activity.
Can HCV be spread within a household? Yes, but this does not occur very often. If HCV is spread within a household, it is most likely due to direct exposure to the blood of an infected household member.