Definition

Inflammation of the liver. This can be self-limiting, or progressive.

Types

  • Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Present in feces, transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water, and anal sex.  
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Transmitted through exposure to infected blood, semen, breast milk, and other body fluids.
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Transmitted through exposure to infected blood (transfusions, contaminated injections, IV drug use).
  • Hepatitis D virus (HDV). A dual infection with HBV.
  • Hepatitis E virus (HEV). Present in feces, mainly transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water.

Causes

Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of Hepatitis in the world, but liver inflammation can also be caused by other infections, toxic substances, and auto-immune diseases.

Statistics

  • 500 million people worldwide are estimated to be infected with hepatitis B or C. 
  • In 2017, a total of 3,409 cases of acute hepatitis B in the United States (1.1 cases per 100,000) were reported to CDC.
  • For more than 50% of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection.

Risk Factors

Risk factors differ by the cause of hepatitis, but in general can be grouped into the following factors:

  • Environmental (unsafe food and drinking water, unsafe sanitation, contact with used needles/syringes or blood products).
  • Behavioral (sharing needles, unsafe sex, drinking untreated water or contaminated foods, drinking large quantities of alcohol, using IV drugs).
  • Health (lack of vaccination (Hepatitis A, B); history of autoimmune disorder; history of acute or chronic hepatitis; maternal hepatitis infection during birth)

Prevention

There are many different ways to prevent contracting hepatitis.

  • Vaccinate (against Hepatitis A and B)
  • Practice safe sex (using a condom)
  • Do not share needles when using IV drugs
  • Practice good personal hygiene
  • Take precautions when getting a tattoo or piercing
  • Drink bottled water when traveling
  • Decrease alcohol consumption

Vaccines

The CDC recommends that all adults keep their vaccinations up to date. Childhood immunizations may wear off after time and need a “booster shot,” and you are at risk for other diseases as an adult.

All adults need:

  • Influenza – recommended every year, age 6 months and older
  • Tdap – (if an adult did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.

Additionally, the CDC recommends the following vaccines for adults suffering from some types of GI disorder (talk to your doctor about which vaccines are right for you):

COVID-19 and Hepatitis

 Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, including people with liver disease, might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

People with chronic liver disease should take steps that everyone can take to prevent getting COVID-19. They should also take the same preventive actions being taken by people with other serious underlying medical conditions to avoid getting sick with or spreading COVID-19.

Resources

Support Groups

Hepatitis C