Viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver. There are several different viruses that cause hepatitis. They are called hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses. The viruses are transmitted in different ways. Complications include chronic liver disease, liver failure, and liver cancer for some types of hepatitis.
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Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is usually found in the stool of infected people. It is spread by:
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and saliva. Hepatitis B can be spread by:
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C virus is carried in the blood of people infected with the virus. It is primarily spread through contact with infected blood. It can occasionally be spread other ways. HCV can be spread by:
Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It occurs only in people who have hepatitis B. Patients may have more severe disease and a higher risk of liver damage than those infected with HBV alone. It is spread through contact with infected blood and through:
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), which can be found in the stool of infected people. It is uncommon in the US, but it is a risk to international travelers. The virus is spread by:
What are the risk factors for hepatitis?
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
What are the treatments for hepatitis?
Are there screening tests for hepatitis?
How can I reduce my risk of hepatitis?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with hepatitis?
Where can I get more information about hepatitis?
Hepatitis A. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/hepatitisa. Updated August 17, 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Overview of acute viral hepatitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/hepatitis/overview-of-acute-viral-hepatitis. Updated June 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Overview of chronic viral hepatitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/hepatitis/overview-of-chronic-hepatitis. Updated July 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis. Updated October 15, 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
What I need to know about Hepatitis B. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/hepatitis-b/Pages/ez.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Last reviewed March 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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