Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, certain medications, some diseases, and viral infections can cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, such as hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, or hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis B virus. Some people get infected with hepatitis B and develop an acute, or short-term, illness, while others develop a chronic, or long-term, illness.
Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person; having sex with an infected partner; an infected mother passing it to her baby at birth; or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment.
Yes. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. For adults, the hepatitis B vaccine series is usually given as 3 shots during a 6-month period.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that damages the liver. Hepatitis C can be either "acute" (short term) or "chronic" (long term).
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
There is little evidence that hepatitis C is spread by getting tattoos in licensed commercial facilities. Whenever tattoos or piercings are performed in informal settings or with non-sterile instruments, transmission of hepatitis C or other infectious diseases is possible.
Yes. To reduce the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C virus:
Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, research is being conducted to develop one. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
An estimated 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C, and many are unaware of their infection. Each year, about 17,000 Americans become infected with hepatitis C.
Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer. Approximately 8,000-10,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease.
Doctors diagnose both acute and chronic infection using one or more blood tests.
Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. If symptoms develop with acute infection, they can appear two weeks to six months after exposure and can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice. For people with chronic hepatitis C, symptoms may take years to develop.
Acute hepatitis C rarely causes symptoms and often goes undiagnosed. When it is undiagnosed, doctors recommend rest, adequate nutrition, fluids, and antiviral medications. People with chronic hepatitis C should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease.
People at risk include those who: