Hepatitis A: What Happens
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can spread from person to person in many different settings. It typically causes only a mild illness, and many people who are infected may never realize they’re sick at all. The virus almost always goes away on its own and does not cause long-term liver damage.
How Is Hepatitis B Spread
You can become infected with hepatitis B through exposure to blood, semen and other bodily fluids of an infected person. You can get the infection by:
- Having unprotected sex.
- Sharing or using dirty needles for drug use, tattoos or piercing.
- Sharing everyday items that may contain body fluids, including razors, toothbrushes, jewelry for piercings and nail clippers.
- Being treated medically by someone who does not use sterile instruments.
- Being bitten by someone with the infection.
- Being born to a pregnant woman with the infection.
Hepatitis B is not spread by:
- Kissing on the cheek or lips.
- Coughing or sneezing.
- Hugging, shaking hands or holding hands.
- Eating food that someone with the infection has prepared.
How Does Hepatitis B Spread
Persons infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to others through blood or body fluids. In the U.S., the most common way of becoming infected is through unprotected sex, although sharing an infected person’s needles to inject illicit drugs also is quite common. Less common ways are by contaminated razors or toothbrushes. As previously mentioned, hepatitis B is passed from infected mother to infant in over 90% of cases.
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Hepatitis C Is The Most Common Type Of Chronic Viral Hepatitis In The United States
Viral hepatitis is a group of infectious diseases that causes inflammation of the liver. There are five types of viral hepatitis, but the most common in the United States are hepatitis A, B and C.
If you travel internationally, you should be aware of your risks for hepatitis A. New cases most commonly result from American travelers who get infected while traveling to parts of the world where hepatitis A is common. Hepatitis A is spread by consuming food or water contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person, or by eating raw shellfish from water contaminated by sewage. Hepatitis A is an acute process. It never is a chronic disease and does not cause cirrhosis.
Prevention: The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for children people with certain risk factors and international travelers. It requires two rounds of shots to be effective. Washing your hands and avoiding unsanitary drinking water or food washed with unsanitary water is also important. If you become infected, your body is usually able to clear the infection itself within a few weeks.
Prevention: Doctors recommend that all children get the hepatitis B vaccine. If you become infected, hepatitis B can range from a mild illness to a serious condition requiring hospitalization, and in some cases, it can become a chronic, lifelong problem.
Is Hepatitis B Contagious
- semen, or
- any other body fluid from the infected person.
Moreover, hepatitis B can be transferred through sexual contact, sharing needles, or from mother to baby at the time of birth.
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How Hepatitis B Is Spread
The virus is spread when blood, semen, or vaginal fluids from an infected person enter another person’s body. This usually happens through:
- Sexual contact. The hepatitis B virus can enter the body through a break in the lining of the rectum, vagina, urethra , or mouth.
- Sharing needles and other equipment used for injecting illegal drugs.
- Work tasks. People who handle blood or instruments used to draw blood may become infected. Health care workers are at risk of infection if they are accidentally stuck with a used needle or other sharp instrument that has an infected person’s blood on it. Infection also can occur if blood splashes onto an exposed surface, such as the eyes, the mouth, or a cut in the skin.
- Childbirth. A newborn baby can get the virus from his or her mother. This can happen during delivery when the baby comes in contact with the mother’s body fluids in the birth canal. But breastfeeding doesn’t spread the virus from a woman to her child.
- Body piercings and tattoos. The virus may be spread when needles used for body piercing or tattooing aren’t sterilized and infected blood enters a person’s skin.
- Toiletries. Grooming items such as razors and toothbrushes can spread the virus if they carry blood from a person who is infected.
Preparation And Use Of Drugs
Washing hands and using sterile water to prepare and use drugs lower the risk of catching hepatitis A. The use of new paraphernalia for the preparation, injection and inhalation of drugs lowers the risk of catching hepatitis B and C through blood.
Never share drug paraphernalia. To know the location of distribution points for drug injecting material, call Info-Santé 811.
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When Should You Contact Doctor If You Think You Have Hepatitis
Fortunately, for some types of hepatitis , there are preventative treatments. Consequently, if a person suspects that they may have been recently exposed to any type of infectious hepatitis, they should contact their health-care professional quickly to prevent liver damage.
If a person has the following symptoms for days, they should seek medical care urgently.
Testing Treating And Reducing Risk Of Hepatitis
If you think youre at risk for hepatitis infection, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested. A blood test is usually done to see if you have been exposed to the virus. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should get tested for hepatitis.
Get treated for hepatitis infection
There are treatments for hepatitis. Treating long-lasting hepatitis B or C infection can reduce the amount of the virus in a person, which may lower the risk of liver cancer.
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You Might Not Know You Have It
Nearly half of people living with hepatitis C dont know they have it. Thats because most people live with the disease for years without feeling sick, or experiencing only minor symptoms such as fatigue. Frequently, the only indication of hepatitis C is an abnormal liver blood test panel. If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis C, be sure to talk to your physician.
What Laboratory Tests Are Available For Hepatitis B
Tests are available to detect the types of antigens used to identify the hepatitis B virus. The tests determine if the virus is present in the body tissue or blood. The amount of each type of antigen present indicates how advanced the disease is and how infective the individual has become.
Other tests are available to detect the body’s reaction to the viral infection or the body’s reaction to vaccination against the virus. These tests work by measuring the number of antibodies present in the blood.
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What Happens With Hepatitis A
Viral diseases generally are contagious. Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It usually is spread from person to person via a fecal-oral route, meaning via fecal contamination of food. It usually is a mild hepatitis, and many people do not know they are infected. The virus is eliminated by the body rapidly, and it does not cause long-term damage. Good hand washing hygiene helps prevent hepatitis A.
Treatment: Chronic Hepatitis B
The goal of treating chronic hepatitis B is to control the virus and keep it from damaging the liver. This begins with regular monitoring for signs of liver disease. Antiviral medications may help, but not everyone can take them or needs to be on medication. Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of antiviral therapy with your doctor.
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How Do You Prevent Hepatitis
Both hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. There is currently no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C.
To prevent spreading or getting hepatitis A:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, changing diapers, touching garbage or dirty clothes, and before preparing food and eating
- Follow guidelines for food safety
- Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made with it
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating
- Keep the refrigerator colder than 40°F and the freezer below 0°F
- Cook meat and seafood until well done
- Cook egg yolks until firm
- Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after contact with raw food
To prevent spreading or getting hepatitis B or hepatitis C:
- Practice safe sex and use a latex condom each time you have sex
- Dont share razors, toothbrushes, or any personal objects that might have blood on them
- Dont share needles or syringes
- Cover cuts and open sores with bandages
- Clean blood off of things with a mixture of bleach and water: use 9 parts bleach to one-part water
What Are The Risk Factors For Getting Hepatitis B
Due to the way that hepatitis B spreads, people most at risk for getting infected include:
- Children whose mothers have been infected with hepatitis B.
- Children who have been adopted from countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection.
- People who have unprotected sex and/or have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
- People who live with or work in an institutional setting, such as prisons or group homes.
- Healthcare providers and first responders.
- People who share needles or syringes.
- People who live in close quarters with a person with chronic hepatitis B infection.
- People who are on dialysis.
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What Causes Hepatitis B
It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.
You may get hepatitis B if you:
- Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
- Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized.
A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery. Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B. If you have the virus, your baby can get shots to help prevent infection with the virus.
You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.
Symptoms Of Hepatitis B
Many people with hepatitis B will not experience any symptoms and may fight off the virus without realising they had it.
If symptoms do develop, they tend to happen 2 or 3 months after exposure to the hepatitis B virus.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include:
- flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, a fever, and general aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- tummy pain
- yellowing of the skin and eyes
These symptoms will usually pass within 1 to 3 months , although occasionally the infection can last for 6 months or more .
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How Do You Get Hepatitis B
You also can get it if you:
- Have direct contact with infected blood or the body fluids of someone who’s got the disease, for instance by using the same razor or toothbrush as someone who has hepatitis B, or touching the open sores of somebody who’s infected.
- If you’re pregnant and you’ve got hepatitis B, you could give the disease to your unborn child. If you deliver a baby who’s got it, they need to get treatment in the first 12 hours after birth.
How Are Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Spread From Person To Person
Like HIV, the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses spread:
- From mother to child: Pregnant women can pass these infections to their infants. HIV-HCV coinfection increases the risk of passing on hepatitis C to the baby.
- Sexually: Both viruses can also be transmitted sexually, but HBV is much more likely than HCV to be transmitted sexually. Sexual transmission of HCV is most likely to happen among gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV.
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Other Body Fluids And Tissues
Hepatitis B is found in semen and vaginal secretions. The virus can be transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse, and from mother to infant during birth.
Synovial fluid , amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and peritoneal fluid can contain the hepatitis B virus, but the risk of transmission to workers is not known.
Feces, nasal secretions, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, and vomit have not been implicated in the spread of hepatitis B. Unless they are visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of contracting hepatitis B from these fluids in the workplace is very low.
Hepatitis B is not transmitted by casual contact. For example, hospital employees who have no contact with blood, blood products, or blood-contaminated fluids are at no greater risk than the general public. However, the virus can spread through intimate contact with carriers in a household setting, possibly because of frequent physical contact with small cuts or skin rashes. The virus can also spread through biting and possibly by the sharing of toothbrushes or razors. It is not spread through sneezing, coughing, hand holding, hugging, kissing, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils, water or food.
What Are The Risk Factors For Hepatitis B And C
Hepatitis B: Although most commonly acquired early in life, adults can also contract it. Hepatitis B is largely transmitted through bodily fluids. It can be passed at birth from a hepatitis B-infected mother or through exposure in early childhood to body fluids, blood or contaminated medical instruments. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through intranasal and injection drug use as well as infected tools used during tattooing and body piercing.
Hepatitis C: The key risk factors are also intranasal and injection drug use, tattoos and body piercings, high-risk sexual contact, blood transfusions before 1992 and organ transplantation.
Another key risk factor for hepatitis C is being born from 1945 to 1965, during the baby-boom years. Eighty percent of all people who currently have hepatitis C in the United States were born in that timeframe.
Although the reasons that baby boomers are more likely to have hepatitis C than others arent entirely understood, its believed that most were infected in the 1970s and 1980s, when rates of hepatitis C were at their peak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that all U.S. adults born from 1945 to 1965 undergo a one-time screening test for hepatitis C. Connecticut is one of several states that has written this recommendation into law. In Connecticut ,the law requires that primary care clinicians screen all adults born within those years.
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Hepatitis B: What Happens
Many adults who get hepatitis B have mild symptoms for a short time and then get better on their own. But some people are not able to clear the virus from the body, which causes a long-term infection. Nearly 90% of infants who get the virus will carry it for life. Over time, hepatitis B can lead to serious problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Blood Tests To Diagnose Hepatitis B
Blood tests are done to help diagnose hepatitis B. They include:
- Hepatitis B antigens and antibodies. These help tell if you are or were infected with the virus. They also can show if you have been immunized and if you have long-term infection. You also may get tested for the virus’s genetic material . For more information, see Hepatitis B Virus Tests.
- Tests to see if the hepatitis A, hepatitis C, or Epstein-Barr viruses are causing your hepatitis.
- Tests to see if you are infected with hepatitis D along with hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis B and C: Should I Be Tested?
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Outlook For Hepatitis B
The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis B in adulthood are able to fight off the virus and fully recover within 1 to 3 months.
Most will then be immune to the infection for life.
Babies and children with hepatitis B are more likely to develop a chronic infection.
Chronic hepatitis B affects around:
- 90% of babies with hepatitis B
- 20% of older children with hepatitis B
- 5% of adults with hepatitis B
Page last reviewed: 30 January 2019 Next review due: 30 January 2022
What Is Hepatitis
There are several types of infectious hepatitis, caused by different viruses. They can cause similar symptoms but can affect the liver in different ways. The three main viral types are:
- Hepatitis A: This is a short-term infection and most patients recover without treatment within about 2 months. It can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Hepatitis B: This can cause acute or chronic infection. Most patients recover within 6 months but some patients develop a long-term infection that can result in liver damage. It can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Hepatitis C: This can cause acute or chronic infection that can lead to liver damage and severe scarring of the liver and an increased risk of liver cancer. There’s no vaccine to prevent it.
Other types of viral hepatitis include hepatitis D, which only develops in people who have hepatitis B, and hepatitis E, which is more common in parts of the developing world where there is poor sanitation.
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