According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2014 and 2018, there was an 850% increase in Hepatitis A incidence. The CDC states there were 12,474 new reported cases of Hepatitis A in 2018. However, Hepatitis A is a highly undiagnosed disease, so CDC estimates that there were actually 24,900 acute cases in 2018.
Hepatitis A is transmitted when a person ingests fecal matter (or stool) from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by small undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.
Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
- All who live in a community with high rates of Hepatitis A
- Travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who use drugs, both injection and non-injection
- People with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia
- Those with occupational risk (for example, people working with nonhuman primates)
To find out if you are at risk, take the CDC Viral Hepatitis Risk Assessment, and ask your health care providers if you should be vaccinated or tested for Hepatitis A.
Some people contract Hepatitis A and have no symptoms of the disease. However, for those who do experience symptoms, they generally last less than two months and may include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, and jaundice. Hepatitis A does not lead to chronic infection. People who are infected with Hepatitis A will eventually clear the virus from their bodies.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is to be vaccinated, which will need to be performed more than once in a lifetime for maximum impact. CDC recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine for all children aged 12–23 months, those between 2–18 years of age who have not previously received a vaccine, and adults who may be at risk, including travelers to certain international countries, men who have sex with men (MSM), people with liver disease, and people who are or were recently in jail or prison. Other prevention methods include practicing good hygiene, including washing hands after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food. Click here to find out where you can get vaccinated.
For more information on Hepatitis A, and to find out if you are at risk for Hepatitis A, visit the CDC’s Hepatitis A Page.
Hepatitis B is an acute illness for some people (defined as the first 6 months following infection), but can often become a long-term, chronic infection. A person’s chances of developing chronic infection are related to the age at which the individual becomes infected. According to the CDC, 90 percent of infants become chronically infected, as opposed to adults who have a 2 to 6 percent chance of developing a chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
In 2018, the CDC reported 3,322 cases of acute Hepatitis B, but note it is likely that the true number is closer to 21,600. For chronic Hepatitis B, it is estimated that 862,000 to 2.2 million people in the U.S. were living with the virus in 2018, as people living with the virus are greatly undiagnosed.
Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or other body fluids of an infected person enters the body of an uninfected individual. This can occur through sexual contact, needle sharing, or from mother to child during birth.
- Infants born to HBV-infected mothers
- Sex partners of HBV-infected persons
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who inject drugs
- Household contacts or sexual partners of known people with chronic HBV infection
- Health care and public safety workers at risk for occupational exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
- Hemodialysis patients
To find out if you are at risk, take the CDC Viral Hepatitis Risk Assessment, and ask your health care providers if you should be vaccinated or tested for Hepatitis B.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B vary. Children 5 years and under and newly infected immunosuppressed adults often show no symptoms, while 30 to 50 percent of infected persons ages 5 or older show initial symptoms, including fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, and jaundice.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B infection is to be vaccinated, which occurs in a series of shots over time. Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants and all children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated; those with sexual partners who have Hepatitis B; those who work in environments where exposure to blood is a risk; and others. Other prevention methods include using sterile tools for body piercings, avoiding needle sharing, and using condoms. Click here to find out where you can get vaccinated.
There is no medication available for acute Hepatitis B infection. There are several antiviral medications available for people with chronic infection.
Testing for Hepatitis B involves the measurement of several Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-specific antigens and antibodies. Different serologic “markers” or combinations of markers are used to identify different phases of HBV infection. They can determine whether a patient has acute or chronic HBV infection, is immune to HBV due to prior infection or vaccination, or is susceptible to infection.
Getting tested is the only way to know if you have Hepatitis B. CDC’s Hepatitis B screening recommendations call for:
- People born in countries with moderate or high prevalence of Hepatitis B
- People born in the U.S. not vaccinated as infants whose parents were born in regions with high rates of Hepatitis B
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who inject drugs
- People living with HIV
- Household and sexual contacts of Hepatitis B infected people
- People requiring immunosuppressive therapy
- People with end-stage renal disease (including hemodialysis patients)
- Blood and tissue donors
- People with elevated alanine aminotransferase levels
- Pregnant women
- Children born to mothers with a Hepatitis B infection
For more information on Hepatitis B, and to find out if you are at risk for Hepatitis B, visit the CDC’s Hepatitis B Page.
The initial months following infection are referred to as acute Hepatitis C, which can range in severity from few to no symptoms, to a serious condition that requires medical attention. The CDC estimates that approximately 20 percent of people can get rid of the Hepatitis C virus within the first six months following infection without seeking treatment. However, most individuals infected with Hepatitis C go on to develop chronic infection, which may lead to liver disease, liver failure, or liver cancer years or decades later.
The CDC estimates that there are 2.4 million individuals in the U.S. living with chronic Hepatitis C. In 2018, the CDC reported 3,621 new cases of acute Hepatitis C in the U.S., and estimated the true number of people with acute Hepatitis C is closer to 50,300.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood. Today, Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through the sharing of contaminated needles used to inject drugs. Also, mothers who are infected with Hepatitis C can transmit the infection to their newborn infants. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through sex, but it is rare. Before 1992, when blood supplies were not universally screened for HCV, Hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. After that, widespread screening of the blood supply in the United States virtually eliminated this source of infection.
When present, Hepatitis C symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, grey colored stool, and jaundice.
There are highly effective treatment options that cure more than 90 percent of people with chronic Hepatitis C. A cure is confirmed after a blood test given 3 months after treatment is completed indicates that the virus is no longer detected in the blood.
Getting tested is the only way to know if you have Hepatitis C. CDC’s Hepatitis C screening recommendations call for:
- One-time screening for all adults 18 years and older.
- Screening of all pregnant women during every pregnancy.
- One‑time Hepatitis C testing regardless of age or setting prevalence among people with increased risk-factors, including those living with HIV, injection drug users, and children born to mothers with a Hepatitis C infection.
- Any person who requests Hepatitis C testing should receive it, regardless of disclosure of risk, because many persons may be reluctant to disclose stigmatizing risks
- Many people don’t have symptoms when they are first infected with Hepatitis C.
- A large proportion (about 8 in 10) of people who do get infected with Hepatitis C will go on to develop chronic Hepatitis C.
- Most people who have chronic Hepatitis C don’t know they have it until they get sick years or decades later.
- When people with chronic Hepatitis C do get sick, most get severe liver disease.
- Chronic Hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for liver transplants.
- There are now medicines that can cure someone living with chronic Hepatitis C infection.
There are several blood tests used to detect Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection. For the HCV antibody test, a positive result means that HCV antibodies were detected in the blood. Once a person has been infected with HCV, the antibodies will stay in the blood system even if the virus is no longer present. Because of this, another test that looks for the presence of the HCV itself in the blood is used – the HCV RNA test. A person who has both a positive HCV antibody test and a positive HCV RNA test is infected with Hepatitis C.
For more information on Hepatitis C, and to find out if you are at risk for Hepatitis C, visit the CDC’s Hepatitis C Page.