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July is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Understanding Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It may be caused by viral infection, alcohol consumption, several health conditions or even some medications. Treatment varies based on the type and underlying cause. Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It is commonly the result of a viral infection but there are other possible causes of hepatitis.

These causes include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue. The five main viral classifications of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of viral hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A is the result of an infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This type of hepatitis is an acute, short-term disease.
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes hepatitis B. This is often an ongoing, chronic condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 826,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis B in the United States.
  • Hepatitis C comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is among the most common bloodborne viral infections in the United States and typically presents as a long-term condition.
  • Hepatitis D is a rare form of hepatitis that only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection. The hepatitis D virus (HDV) causes liver inflammation like other strains, but a person cannot contract HDV without an existing hepatitis B infection.
  • Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease that results from exposure to the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting fecal matter that contaminates the water supply.
Causes of Hepatitis
Type of Hepatitis Common Route of Transmission
hepatitis A exposure to HAV in food or water
hepatitis B contact with HBV in body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions or semen
hepatitis C contact with HCV in body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions or semen
hepatitis D contact with blood containing HDV
hepatitis E exposure to HEV in food or water

People with acute hepatitis may present with symptoms shortly after contracting a hepatitis virus. Common symptoms of infectious hepatitis include:

There are vaccines that can help protect against many hepatitis viruses. Minimizing your risk of exposure to substances containing these viruses can also be an important preventive measure.

For more information on understanding hepatitis, read here.