Hepatitis

Hepatitis

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
TypeHow it spreadsIncubation periodBecomes chronic infectionSpecific treatment available
AFecal-oral contact, generally through poor hand washing2—6 weeksNoNo specific treatment. Vaccine available.
BContaminated needles and syringes or sexual contact2—6 months6% of cases. Some chronic cases may progress to live failure or liver cancerNo "cure" but antiviral medications and interferon can reduce activity and progression. Vaccine available.
CContaminated needles, workplace exposure to blood, blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, tattooing and piercing, rarely by sexual activity.2 weeks—6 months75-85% of casesNewer antiviral medications have cure rates up to 90%. No vaccine available.
DContaminated needles and syringes or sexual contact2—8 weeksCo-exists only with Hepatitis B, can become chronicSame as Hepatitis B. No vaccine available.
EFecal-oral contact, generally through poor hand washing3—8 weeksNoNo specific treatment. No vaccine available.

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

Hepatitis Prevention

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

Hepatitis A vaccinations are recommended if:

  • You are traveling to or working in countries with high levels of Hepatitis A. Talk to the Health Center 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 and Hepatitis B
  • Rest and good nutrition are important for all individuals with hepatitis
  • Eat a healthy diet. See one of our Health and Wellness dietitians 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 and C. Specific recommendations are available from a medical provider regarding medications for Hepatitis B and C infections

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