Hepatitis A B And C: What Is The Difference
A, B, C D and E.
Aside from the letters associated with it, how much do you know about hepatitis? Whats the difference between the types? And if you get a vaccination for hepatitis, which are you protected from?
We spoke with Moises Ilan Nevah, MD, a transplant hepatologist/gastroenterologist and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, to help better understand the similarities and differences between the various types of hepatitis, who is at risk and when to get vaccinated.
How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, but there is research being done to develop one. Currently, vaccines are only available for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Remember that Hepatitis C is transmitted or spread when the blood from a Hepatitis C-infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. If you dont have Hepatitis C, you can reduce your risk of becoming infected by doing the following:
- If youre injecting drugs, try to get into a treatment program. If you continue to use drugs, dont share needles or other equipment with anyone else. Many cities have needle exchange programs that provide free, sterile needles.
- Make sure all equipment has been sterilized if youre getting body piercings or a tattoo.
- If youre a healthcare worker follow your institutions safety precautions. For example, wear protective clothing and gloves and dispose of contaminated sharp objects properly.
- If you have more than one sex partner or are a man having sex with other men, use condoms for intercourse.
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What Causes Hepatitis C Infection
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.
You can get hepatitis C if:
- You share needles and other equipment used to inject illegal drugs. This is the most common way to get hepatitis C in the United States.
- You had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. As of 1992 in the United States, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C.
- You get a shot with a needle that has infected blood on it. This happens in some developing countries where they use needles more than once when giving shots.
- You get a tattoo or a piercing with a needle that has infected blood on it. This can happen if equipment isn’t cleaned properly after it is used.
In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C spreads the virus to her baby at birth, or a health care worker is accidentally exposed to blood that is infected with hepatitis C.
The risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual contact is very small. The risk is higher if you have many sex partners.
If you live with someone who has hepatitis C or you know someone who has hepatitis C, you generally don’t need to worry about getting the disease from that person. You can help protect yourself by not sharing anything that may have blood on it, such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers.
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How Can I Get Free Or Low
The hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are covered under most insurance plans.
- If you have insurance, check with your insurance provider to find out whats included in your plan.
- Medicare Part B covers hepatitis B vaccines for people at risk.
Find a clinic near you where you can get vaccines for hepatitis A and B.
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 If You Test Positive For Hepatitis
If testing discloses that you have viral hepatitis there are steps to prevent your passing the viruses to family and friends. Washing the hands helps prevent transmission of hepatitis A. Not sharing needles, razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes also will reduce transmission of viral hepatitis. Everyone should be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
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All Adults Pregnant Women And People With Risk Factors Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Most people who get infected with hepatitis C virus develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. People can live without symptoms or feeling sick, so testing is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C. Getting tested is important to find out if you are infected so you can get lifesaving treatment that can cure hepatitis C.
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Getting Tested For Hepatitis C
A blood test, called an HCV antibody test, is used to find out if someone has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. The HCV antibody test, sometimes called the anti-HCV test, looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus in blood. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected.
Test results can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back. Rapid anti-HCV tests are available in some health clinics and the results of these tests are available in 20 to 30 minutes.
How Is Hepatitis C Treated
There are some very effective options for the treatment of hepatitis C infection. They are listed on the Medicare PBS , which makes them available at a much lower cost.
Newer treatments differ from those available previously:
- they cure more than 95% of people
- their side effects are minimal
- treatments last just 8 to 12 weeks
- they involve just a few pills each day, with no injections required
Curing hepatitis C means clearing the virus from the body. It helps reduce liver inflammation and can also help reverse scarring and cirrhosis. You can be re-treated if your treatment doesnt work the first time.
You should check with your doctor before taking any other medication or supplements, and whether you need vaccinations against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. You should also avoid alcohol if you have hepatitis. If you have liver damage, you may also need to see a liver specialist
For more information on how to get treatment, contact the National Hepatitis Info Line on 1800 437 222.
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Where Can One Find More Information About Hcv
For more information about HCV, please visit www.HepCFight.com where people with HCV, their family and friends will find various online resources.
1 Centers for Disease Control. Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public, available online at. Last accessed March 7, 2010.
2 University of Maryland Medical Center. Liver Disease, available online at . Last accessed April 1, 2010.
3 National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Chronic Hepatitis C: Current Disease Management, available online at . Last accessed February 16, 2010.
4 Colvin, HM, Mitchell, AE. Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C. . Accessed March 7, 2010.
5 Rodriguez-Torres M. Peginterferon Alfa-2a and Ribavirin in Latino and Non-Latino Whites with Hepatitis C.The New England Journal of Medicine. 2009 360:257-267.
6 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Information for Health Professionals, available online at . Last accessed on February 16, 2010.
7 New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hepatitis C. . Last accessed on April 2, 2010.
How Is Acute Hepatitis C Treated
Acute hepatitis C is typically monitored and not treated. Treatment during the acute stage doesnt change the risk that the disease will progress to the chronic form. An acute infection may resolve on its own without treatment. The following treatment may be all thats necessary:
- adequate fluids
Some people may need treatment with prescription medication. Your doctor will be able to work with you about what treatment options may be best for you.
Those most at risk for acute and chronic hepatitis C are people who use or share contaminated needles. Mothers can transmit HCV to their babies during childbirth, but not through breastfeeding. Other risk factors for transmission of HCV include:
- healthcare work, especially work around needles
- getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment
- undergoing hemodialysis
- living in a household with someone with HCV
- sharing personal hygiene products, such as razors or toothbrushes
- engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners without condoms or dental dams
- having a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992 or receiving clotting factors before 1987
The most serious long-term risk of acute hepatitis C is developing chronic hepatitis C, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. In 75 to 85 percent of those with acute hepatitis C, the disease will progress to the more serious chronic hepatitis C.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Hcv Infection
Most people with HCV have no symptoms. But even without symptoms, they can develop health problems decades later and can still pass the disease to others.
If symptoms do happen, it’s usually when the disease is very advanced. Symptoms can be similar to those of hepatitis A and hepatitis B and include:
- nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite
How Does Hepatitis C Spread
Hepatitis C is spread only through exposure to an infected persons blood.
High-risk activities include:
- Sharing drug use equipment. Anything involved with injecting street drugs, from syringes, to needles, to tourniquets, can have small amounts of blood on it that can transmit hepatitis C. Pipes and straws to smoke or snort drugs can have blood on them from cracked lips or nosebleeds. Get into a treatment program if you can. At the very least, dont share needles or equipment with anyone else.
- Sharing tattoo or piercing tools. Nonsterile items and ink can spread contaminated blood.
- Blood transfusions in countries that donât screen blood for hepatitis C.
- Nonsterile medical equipment. Tools that arenât cleaned properly between use can spread the virus.
- Blood or cutting rituals. Sharing the tools or exchanging blood can transmit hepatitis C.
Medium-risk activities include:
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Who Should Be Tested
Testing for hepatitis A is not routinely recommended.
CDC recommends hepatitis B testing for:
- Men who have sex with men
- People who inject drugs
- Household and sexual contacts of people with hepatitis B
- People requiring immunosuppressive therapy
- People with end-stage renal disease
- People with hepatitis C
- People with elevated ALT levels
- Infants born to HBV-infected mothers
CDC recommends hepatitis C testing for:
- All adults aged 18 years and older
- All pregnant women during each pregnancy
- About 24,900 new infections each year
- About 22,600 new infections in 2018
- Estimated 862,000 people living with hepatitis B
- About 50,300 new infections in 2018
- Estimated 2.4 million people living with hepatitis C
How Can Hepatitis C Affect My Child In The Long Term
Children with hepatitis C can lead completely normal lives, attend school, and play sports without any special arrangements.
If left untreated or if treatment fails, chronic hepatitis C can last for decades. During that time, it can progressively damage the liver and lead to such complications as cirrhosis and liver cancer. When they become older, children with hepatitis C should avoid drinking alcohol, as it can make the disease progress more quickly.
If the liver begins to fail because of the hepatitis and its complications, your child may need a liver transplant. While hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for an adult to receive a liver transplant, it is not a common reason among children.
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Early Symptoms Of Hep C
In its later stages, hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, which can be fatal. It also significantly increases the risk of liver cancer. Symptoms in the later stages may include:
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen
- Swelling of the legs
These are symptoms of liver failure, and they indicate that the virus has caused severe damage to the liver. People who have had chronic viral hepatitis C for years often end up with these symptoms.
Up until the point where it causes liver failure, hepatitis C is often a silent infection. Up to half of all people with the virus dont even realize that theyre infected. However, when you first get the virus, there can sometimes be symptoms, including:
These symptoms can occur anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks after you get infected. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. Many people dont feel sick at all when they first get hepatitis C. Infectious disease causes of liver damage also include hepatitis B, which causes the same symptoms.
What Is The Outlook For People With Hepatitis B
The outlook for people with HBV is better now than ever before. You are certainly able to live a full life and help yourself stay healthy. You should make sure to have regular check-ups with a healthcare provider who is qualified to treat hepatitis B, possibly a liver doctor.
Make sure you are vaccinated against hepatitis A. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking other medications or over-the-counter products, including supplements and natural products. These could interfere with your medication or damage your liver. For instance, taking acetaminophen in large doses may harm your liver.
Follow the usual guidelines for living a healthy life:
- Eat nutritious foods, choosing from a variety of vegetables, fruits and healthy proteins. It is said that cruciferous vegetables are especially good at protecting the liver.
- Exercise regularly.
- Dont smoke and dont drink. Both tobacco and alcohol are bad for your liver.
- Do things that help you cope with stress, like journaling, talking with others, meditating and doing yoga.
- Avoid inhaling toxic fumes.
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What Hepatitis C Tests Are Available
The diagnosis of hepatitis C requires a blood test. You can get this by visiting your doctor, or you can order your test yourself at home. There are test kits available that allow you to take your own blood sample at home using a fingerprick. For those who prefer not to draw their own blood, you can still order your own test, and then visit a lab to have your blood drawn.
How Do You Get Hepatitis B
sharing toothbrushes and razors
sharing needles for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.
getting stuck with a needle that has the Hep B virus on it.
Hepatitis B can also be passed to babies during birth if their mother has it.
Hepatitis B isnt spread through saliva , so you CANT get hepatitis B from sharing food or drinks or using the same fork or spoon. Hepatitis B is also not spread through kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.
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What Does A Reactive Hcv Antibody Test Result Mean
A reactive or positive antibody test means you have been infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in time.
Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if they have cleared the virus, have been cured, or still have the virus in their blood.
A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you currently have hepatitis C and a follow-up test is needed.
Treatments For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be treated with medicines that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. These usually need to be taken for several weeks.
Until recently, most people would have taken 2 main medicines called pegylated interferon and ribavirin .
Tablet-only treatments are now available.
These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, are easier to tolerate, and have shorter treatment courses.
They include sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
Using the latest medications, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C may be cured.
But its important to be aware that you will not be immune to the infection and should take steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected again.
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Can Cats Transmit Disease To Humans
Cats can transmit Toxoplasma to people through their feces, but humans most commonly become infected by eating undercooked or raw meat, or by inadvertently consuming contaminated soil on unwashed or undercooked vegetables. The symptoms of toxoplasmosis include flu-like muscle aches and fever, and headache.
How We Care For Hepatitis C
The Center for Childhood Liver Disease at Boston Childrens Hospital is one of the leading centers in the world for the care of children with hepatitis C. The centers director, Maureen Jonas, MD, is a national leader in the care, diagnosis, and treatment for children with viral hepatitis. Dr. Jonas, along with her team, wrote the clinical guidelines that shape the way pediatric GI specialists and pediatricians around the country treat hepatitis C.
In addition to the standard treatments, our team of certified pediatric hepatologists is also at the forefront of treatment research, treating adolescents with newly approved treatments for adults and conducting clinical trials to help make them available to children as young as 3 years of age.
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