Viral Hepatitis

A group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E — affects millions of people worldwide, causing both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) liver disease. When the liver is damaged, it may be unable to process nutrients, filter blood and fight infections. Viral hepatitis causes more than one million deaths each year. While deaths from tuberculosis and HIV have been declining, deaths from hepatitis are increasing. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of hepatitis infections in the US. Hepatitis D and E infections are rare in the US.

Hepatitis A is very contagious but is vaccine-preventable. It is spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink. Symptoms of hepatitis A can last up to 2 months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice.

Hepatitis B is also vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. Not all people newly infected with HBV have symptoms, but for those that do, symptoms can include fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice.

Hepatitis C is transmitted primarily through exposure to infectious blood or body fluids that contain blood. Currently, the most common modes of transmission are through sharing needles or "works" and birth to an HCV-infected mother. People with Hepatitis C infection usually are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms that are unlikely to prompt a visit to a healthcare professional. When symptoms do occur, they can include: fever, fatigue, dark urine, clay-colored stool, stomach pain, loss of appetite nausea, joint pain, and jaundice. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.