Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).
How Common is Hepatitis A in the U.S.?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 2,500 persons are newly infected with Hepatitis A each year. Hepatitis A rates have declined by more than 95% since the hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995.
How is Hepatitis A Transmitted?
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.
Who is at High Risk of Contracting Hepatitis A?
- 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.
What are the Symptoms of 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.
How Does a Person Prevent Hepatitis A Infection?
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is to be vaccinated. The CDC recommends that all children at 1 year of age and high risk persons of any age get vaccinated for Hepatitis A. 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.
Want to learn more?
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 a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV).
What is Hepatitis B?
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 6 to 10 percent of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
How Common is Hepatitis B in the U.S.?
The CDC estimates that between 850,000 and 2.2 million people have chronic HBV in the U.S., and approximately 19,200 new HBV infections occur each year.
How is Hepatitis B Transmitted?
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.
Who is at High Risk of Contracting Hepatitis B?
- Infants born to HBV-infected mothers
- Sex partners of HBV-infected persons
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who inject drugs
- 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.
What are the Symptoms of 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 bowl movements, and jaundice.
How Does a Person Prevent Hepatitis B Infection?
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B infection is to be vaccinated. The CDC recommends that all children and high risk adults get vaccinated for Hepatitis B. 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.
How is Hepatitis B Treated?
There is no medication available for acute Hepatitis B infection. There are several antiviral medications available for people with chronic infection.
How do Health Care Providers Test for Hepatitis B?
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 and to 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.
Want to learn more?
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.
Hepatitis C, commonly known as Hep C, is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C (HCV) virus.
What is Hep C?
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.
How Common is Hepatitis C in the U.S.?
The CDC estimates that there are 2.3 million individuals in the U.S. living with chronic Hepatitis C, and approximately 17,000 new Hepatitis C infections occur each year.
How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
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.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?
When present, Hepatitis C symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, grey colored stool, and jaundice.
How is Hepatitis C Treated?
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.
How Does a Person Know if they Have Hepatitis C?
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.
- Testing for all persons with risk factors, with continued testing for those with ongoing risk.
Why is Testing for Hepatitis C Important?
- 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 Hep 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
How do Health Care Providers Test for Hepatitis C?
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.
Want to learn more?
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.