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Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver." While hepatitis can occur as a side effect of some medications and from alcohol abuse, there are five types that are caused by a viral infection.

Types of Hepatitis


How it Spreads

Incubation Period

Becomes Chronic Infection

Specific Treatment Available

Preventive Vaccination Available


Fecal-oral contact, generally through poor hand washing

2–6 weeks


No specific treatment



Contaminated needles and syringes or sexual contact

2–6 months

6% of cases

Some chronic cases may progress to liver failure or liver cancer

No “Cure” but antiviral medications and interferon can reduce activity and progression



Contaminated needles, workplace exposure to blood, blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, tattooing and piercing, rarely by sexual activity

2 weeks–6 months

75–85% of cases

Newer antiviral medications have cure rates up to 90%



Contaminated needles and syringes or sexual contact

2–8 weeks

Co-exists only with Hepatitis B, can become chronic

Same as Hepatitis B



Fecal-oral contact, generally through poor hand washing

3–8 weeks


No specific treatment


Hepatitis Symptoms

Most people with hepatitis have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they vary widely and can resemble many other illnesses. Some symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin)
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

There is a specific blood test for each type of hepatitis. These can be performed at the IU Health Center lab with orders from your medical provider.

Hepatitis Prevention

There are preventive vaccinations available for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. IU Health Center offers Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccinations at our Immunization Clinic.

Hepatitis Avaccinationsare recommended if:

  • You are traveling to or working in countries with high levels of Hepatitis A. Talk to the Travel Clinic before you go.
  • You work in a research lab with Hepatitis A or with virus-infected primates
  • You live in a state, county, or community where Hepatitis A occurs at twice the national average
  • You are a man who has sexual contact with other men
  • You are an illegal drug user
  • You have chronic liver disease
  • You have a clotting-factor disorder

Hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended if:

  • You are 18 or younger and have never been vaccinated
  • Your behavior puts you at risk for Hepatitis B (multiple sexual partners, sharing needles with drug use)
  • Your job exposes you to human blood

Hepatitis Treatment

Most hepatitis treatment consists of supportive care:

  • anti-nausea medicines may be used if nausea and vomiting are a problem in acute hepatitis A & B
  • Rest and good nutrition are important for all individuals with hepatitis
  • Eat a healthy diet. See a Health and Wellness nutrition counselor for help with meal planning
  • Alcohol should not be consumed during the course of the infection
Combinations of antiviral medications and newer “biologicals” may also be used for chronic infections with Hepatitis B & C. Specific recommendations are available from a medical provider regarding medications for Hepatitis B and C infections

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