General Hepatitis Information
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. There are at least six different types of viral hepatitis (A-G). The most common types in the United States are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Symptoms of acute (newly acquired) hepatitis include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal/stomach pain, dark urine, clay-colored feces, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Symptoms are the same for all three types of hepatitis (A, B, and C).
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections can lead to chronic hepatitis infections, in which case individuals will remain infected. Chronic hepatitis can lead to liver disease and liver cancer. Most people with hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections remain asymptomatic (no symptoms) until the infection progresses and cause complications of the liver.
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Functions of the liver: The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. The liver regulates chemical levels in the blood and excretes bile which carries away waste prodects from the liver. The liver has over 500 vital functions.
Hepatitis A is an acute and contagious infection which is transmitted through fecal-oral contact, usually by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Anyone can get hepatitis A, but those at most risk are individuals that travel to countries where hepatitis A is common and those who have sexual contact with or are househould contacts of an infected person People infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) usually improve without treatment, although death from hepatitis A does occur. HAV is never a lifelong illness (chronic disease).
A vaccination is available to prevent hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease (chronic). The primary mode of transmission for the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is through blood, semen, or other body fluids. Risk factors include sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes, and sharing peronsal items such as razors or glucose monitors with an infected person. The virus is not spread casually (holding or shaking hands, hugging, sneezing, or talking to an infected individual). Hepatitis B can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby at birth. HBV can survive outside the body for at least 7 days.
A vaccination is available to prevent hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is also a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease (chronic). The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mainly transmitted via contact with blood of an infected person. Risk factors include sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, sharing personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, etc. as well as by getting tattoos or piercings at an unlicensed facility. The virus is not spread casually (holding or shaking hands, hugging, sneezing, or talking to an infected individual). About 20% of people infected with hepatitis C will recover from the infection; however, for the majority, acute hepatitis C will lead to chronic hepatits C infection. Most people are unaware that they are infected because they donít look or feel sick. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. The best way to prevent infection with HCV is by educating yourself and avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. In the United States, HCV is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplantation. HCV can survive outside the body (on environmental surfaces) at room temperature for at least 16 hours but no longer than 4 days.
Co-infection (HIV or HBV): Co-infection is especially common in injection drug users (IDU) and in people with hemophilia (bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot normally) who received contaminated blood products.
Hepatitis A, B, and C are designated as reportable diseases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By law, all healthcare providers and clinical laboratories are required to report "diagnosed" cases to their state or local health departments.
We strongly encourage providers to use the State Electronic Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (SENDSS) to report Hepatitis cases to us.