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Hepatitis C: An Overview

Prevalence | Incidence | Demographics | Natural History | Transmission
Prevention | HCV Testing | Treatment | What You Need To Know

Hepatitis: What you need to Know

Hepatitis A, B and C: More serious than you think

Viral hepatitis is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common types and hepatitis D and E are the least common.

Hepatitis B, C and D can lead to severe illness, life-long disease, scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer or even death. Hepatitis D occurs only with Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis A Virus (HAV)
About 35,000 people in the United States (U.S.) get HAV each year. HAV may make you very sick, but it usually goes away within six months.

HAV is spread from person to person by eating or drinking food or water that has HAV in it.

You may be at risk of getting HAV if you:

  • Travel to a place where food and water are not clean
  • Live in the same house with someone who has HAV
  • Have children who go to the same day care with someone who has HAV
  • Share dirty needles
  • Are a man who has sex with other men

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
About 78,000 people in the U.S. get HBV each year. About 1.2 million people in the U.S. have had HBV longer than six months. These people are known as carriers. Carriers need to see a doctor to get follow-up care. Mothers who have HBV can give it to their babies at the time of birth.

HBV is spread from person to person through blood or other body fluids.

You may be at risk of getting HBV from people who have it by:

  • Coming in contact with their blood or body fluids
  • Having unsafe sex with them
  • Sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers or needles with them
  • Sharing ear piercing, body piercing or tattooing equipment with them

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
Almost 4 million people in the U.S. have HCV and many are not aware of it. About 25, 000 people get HCV each year. Signs of the disease may show up quickly or may take 10-40 years before there are any signs of liver problems.

HCV is spread from person to person through blood.

You may be at risk of getting HCV from people who have it by:

  • Coming in contact with their blood
  • Sharing dirty needles with them
  • Having unsafe sex with them
  • Having received blood, blood products or organs before 1992

People with signs of hepatitis may:

  • Feel tired all the time
  • Have mild fevers
  • Have aching muscles or joints
  • Have an upset stomach
  • Have stomach pain
  • Have diarrhea
  • Throw up a lot
  • Have jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Have dark urine
  • Have light-colored stools
  • Not feel hungry

You cannot always look at someone and tell that she or he has hepatitis. The only way for people to know if they have hepatitis is to get a blood test. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what blood tests to get. Also, ask them if you should get the shots to keep you safe from getting the hepatitis A virus and the hepatitis B virus.

How you get hepatitis

Source of Infection

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Food/Water

Definitely

 

 

Between family members

Definitely

Definitely

Rarely

Needle- stick injuries

 

Definitely

Rarely

IV drug use (shared needles)

Rarely

Definitely

Definitely

Transfusion/Hemodialysis before 1992

Rarely

Definitely

Definitely

Transfusion/Hemodialysis after 1992

 

Rarely

Rarely

Orally

Definitely

Rarely

 

Heterosexual activity

 

Definitely

Rarely

Male-to-male sexual activity

Definitely

Definitely

Rarely

Mother to child at birth

 

Definitely

Definitely

Body piercing or Tattooing

 

Definitely

Definitely

To protect yourself from getting hepatitis, you should:

  • Boil or cook your food and water, if you travel
  • Wash your hands before handling food
  • Wash your hands after using the restroom and after diaper changing
  • Avoid blood and body fluids
  • Practice safe sex
  • Avoid sharing anything that may have blood on it
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about your risk and if blood tests are needed
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about shots to prevent hepatitis A and B

For more information, call your doctor, your local health department or
1-888-76-SHOTS

Department of Community Health