“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.
Hep C is the one that has no vaccine and is transferred most commonly through blood to blood contact. HEPATITIS A Route of transmission: Fecal-oral Common sources: Poor sanitation, contaminated food and water Incubation period: 2-6 weeks Contagious: 2 weeks before symptoms to 1 week after symptoms Prevention: a 2 dose vaccine is 96% effective HEPATITIS B Route of transmission: Blood and bodily fluids Common sources: Sharing needles with IV drug use, blood contaminated injuries (needlestick), mother to baby at delivery, unprotected sexual contact (especially anal intercourse) Incubation period: 6 weeks to 6 months Contagious: As long as test positive usually <3 months, but may be lifetime Severity: <1% die from acute hepatitis, but chronic hepatitis occurs in 1-2% adults & 90% infant with 25-40% becoming carriers with increased risk of cirrhosis or liver cancer Prevention: a 3 dose vaccine is 97% effective HEPATITIS C Route of transmission: Blood and bodily fluids Common sources: 50% from IV drug use now, prior to 1991 was from blood transfusions, now only 1 in 200,000 transfusions, blood contaminated injuries, mother to baby at delivery, tattooing (sharing of needles) Incubation period: 6 weeks to 6 months Contagious: 15% - <3 months, 85% - lifetime Severity: 50+% develop chronic hepatitis, with 30% of these developing cirrhosis or liver cancer, 40% of all liver disease in US, 51% of liver transplants, might be most common cause of primary liver cancer in US. Prevention: No vaccine, avoid sharing razors and toothbrushes, cover wounds with dressings, self clean-up of blood spills
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