Skip to main content

Hepatitis

Hep A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus is most commonly spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, but it can also be spread by close person-to-person contact such as household or sexual contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable disease acquired during travel.

The symptoms of HAV differ from person to person. Some infected individuals may not display any symptoms but still pose a transmission risk to others. Symptoms may include yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), tiredness, stomachache, fatigue, loss of appetite, or nausea.

The hepatitis A vaccine is 94-100% effective in preventing the disease. Protection begins approximately 2-4 weeks after the 1st injection. A  2nd injection results in long-term protection.

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus can affect people of all ages. Once infected, some people carry the virus their whole lives. This is called “chronic” infection and it can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. The virus is found in the blood and body fluids of infected people. It is most often spread among adults through sexual contact, by sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia, or from an HBV-infected mother to her newborn during birth. HBV can also be spread through normal household contact with HBV-infected people.

Some people get sick within the first six months after getting infected. The symptoms of this “acute” hepatitis are loss of appetite, tiredness, stomachache, nausea, and vomiting. These people might also experience yellowing of the whites of the eyes (jaundice) or joint pain. For some people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. People with chronic HBV infection usually do not feel sick for many years, but will have symptoms if they develop the most serious complications from hepatitis B, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. A person infected with the virus can pass it on to others even if he or she does not feel sick or show symptoms.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is a blood-borne virus. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but 70–85% of people who become infected with hepatitis C will have a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. The majority of infected persons might not be aware of their infection because they are not clinically ill. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs and sharing needles.

Resources

Hepatitis B

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

Hepatitis A

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

Hepatitis A Information for the Public

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Hepatitis Infection Map

HepVu: Interactive online resource that visualizes the first standardized state-level estimates of people with past or current Hepatitis C infection across the United States.

Hepatitis Risk Assessment

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Take this 5 minute hepatitis risk assessment and get a personalized report

The ABCs of Viral Hepatitis

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Fact Sheet