Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver most often caused by a virus. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. While each form of hepatitis can cause similar symptoms, they affect the liver differently and have different routes of infection. There are vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B. There are also treatments and a cure for Hepatitis C.
What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral Hepatitis Information
- Effective vaccine is available
- Spread through the ingestion of contaminated food and water
- Contact with contaminated feces or stool
- Can last for a few weeks to several months
- Most recover with no lasting liver damage
- Although very rare, death can occur
- Cases of Hepatitis A in the United States have increased 1,325% from 2015 through 2019 primarily among people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness
- Effective vaccine is available
- Spread through contact with blood or sexual body fluids from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus
- Most people (75%-85%) recover
- 15%-25% develop a lifelong (chronic) condition that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer
- There is treatment available for people with chronic infection
- Cases of Hepatitis B in the United States during 2019 have remained low in children and adolescents likely due to childhood vaccinations
- More than half of the new cases in 2019 were among people aged 30-49 years
- No vaccine is available
- Spread through contact with blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus
- Can range from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks, to a serious chronic infection
- More than 50% of people infected with Hepatitis C develop a chronic infection that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer
- There are medications available that can cure 90%-95% of those with Hepatitis C
- Cases of Hepatitis C in the United States increased again in 2019 with the highest rates among people aged 20-39 years, consistent with age groups most impacted by the nation’s opioid crisis
How to Prevent Hepatitis A
Avoiding contact with fecal bacteria and washing hands after using the bathroom can help prevent transmission of Hepatitis A.
How to Prevent Hepatitis B
Using condoms or another latex barrier when having sex can prevent transmission of Hepatitis B.
How to Prevent Hepatitis C
Using condoms or another latex barrier when having sex as well as not sharing needles or works for drug use can prevent transmission of Hepatitis C (HCV)
- The CDC recommends:
- All people over age 18 get tested at least once in their lifetime
- Pregnant women at least once during each pregnancy
- People living with HIV get screened at least once
- Periodic routine testing for people who inject drugs and share syringes, needles, and other injection equipment (cookers, cotton, water, etc.)
For more information on prevention services and free HIV, Hepatitis C, and STI testing please visit: Get Tested | National HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Testing (cdc.gov)
Hepatitis C (HCV) can be cured! Treatment for HCV is recommended for all people, including non-pregnant women, with acute or chronic hepatitis C (including children aged ≥3 years and adolescents). Current treatments usually involve just 8–12 weeks of oral therapy (pills) and cure over 90% of people with few side effects. Treatment has been found to still be effective, even with patients who still use substances.
For a list of Connecticut Community Health Centers providing Hepatitis C treatment, please click the link: HCV Treatment Providers