The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, which is why it is often called viral hepatitis. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Millions of Americans have viral hepatitis and an estimated 72,000 become infected each year. When a person first gets viral hepatitis, he or she can develop a very mild illness with few or no symptoms or get a more serious illness lasting months. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can progress to a “chronic” or lifelong infection, which can cause serious health problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. Most people with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected and can live with the disease for decades without having symptoms, or feeling sick.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term (chronic) illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer. You can get Hepatitis B when you have contact with infectious blood, semen, and other body fluids from having sex with an infected person, sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs, or from an infected mother to her newborn.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV infection sometimes results in an acute illness, but most often becomes a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. You can get Hepatitis C when you have contact with the blood of an infected person, primarily through sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs.
To learn more about the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and what HHS is doing about viral hepatitis, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/hepatitis
Resources For You
- Report from an Expert Consultation on the Evidence for Early Treatment of HCV in the United States
- Viral Hepatitis: Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention