"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected. About 80,000 new infections occur each year.
Four Things You Should Know About Hepatitis
- Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are all different diseases. Each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus and spreads in different ways. Hepatitis A does not cause a long-term infection, although it can make people very sick. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections and lead to serious health problems.
- Chronic hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer. Chronic hepatitis can cause serious damage to the liver, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.
- Most people with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected. More than 4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis in the United States, but most do not know they are infected. Many people live with chronic hepatitis for decades without symptoms or feeling sick.
- Getting tested could save your life. Lifesaving care and treatments are available for chronic hepatitis, but getting tested is the only way to know if you are infected. Take the Hepatitis Risk Assessment to see if you should be tested for viral hepatitis.
For more information regarding hepatitis, visit the following websites:
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Hepatitis Fact Sheets from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Wisconsin HIV/STD/Hepatitis C Information and Referral Center
Hepatitis A, caused by infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), has an incubation period of approximately 28 days (range: 15–50 days). HAV replicates in the liver and is shed in high concentrations in feces from two weeks before to one week after the onset of clinical illness. HAV infection produces a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease
Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). The incubation period from the time of exposure to onset of symptoms is six weeks to six months. HBV is found in highest concentrations in blood and in lower concentrations in other body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions, and wound exudates). HBV infection can be self-limited or chronic.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States; approximately 3.2 million persons are chronically infected. Although HCV is not efficiently transmitted sexually, persons at risk for infection through injection drug use might seek care in STD treatment facilities, HIV counseling and testing facilities, correctional facilities, drug treatment facilities, and other public health settings where STD and HIV prevention and control services are available.
Hepatitis D, also known as "delta hepatitis," is a serious liver disease caused by infection with the Hepatitis D virus (HDV), which is an RNA virus structurally unrelated to the Hepatitis A, B, or C viruses. Hepatitis D, which can be acute or chronic, is uncommon in the United States. HDV is an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate and only occurs among people who are infected with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). HDV is transmitted through percutaneous or mucosal contact with infectious blood and can be acquired either as a coinfection with HBV or as superinfection in persons with HBV infection. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis D, but it can be prevented in persons who are not already HBV-infected by Hepatitis B vaccination.
Hepatitis E is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) that usually results in an acute infection. It does not lead to a chronic infection. While rare in the United States, Hepatitis E is common in many parts of the world. Transmission: Ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts; outbreaks are usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. Vaccination: There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for Hepatitis E.