What is hepatitis? - What is hepatitis?
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In most cases it’s caused by a virus, but it may also be caused by alcohol, drugs, or other medical conditions.
The three most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver and is found in the faeces (poo) of people with the infection. It is usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated (dirty) food or water.
- It can also be spread by close personal contact with an infected person (including sexual contact).
- Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Deaths from hepatitis A are rare, but some people get very sick.
- Hepatitis B is mainly passed on by blood-to-blood contact - when infected blood enters another person's blood stream.
- It can also be passed on through sexual contact.
- Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Most adults recover completely from hepatitis B, and can't get it again. Some people go on to develop a lifelong infection and this can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure.
- Hepatitis C is only transmitted through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
- In Australia, most infections are caused by sharing drug injecting equipment like needles and syringes.
- Most hepatitis C infections develop into a lifelong infection and can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure if left untreated.
- New hepatitis C treatments have a cure rate of 95% or higher. For most people the treatment course is only 8-12 weeks, with only mild or no side effects. General practitioners (GPs) can prescribe hepatitis C treatment.
- However, even if a person is cured of hepatitis C, they can be re-infected with the virus again, so it is important to practice safe behaviours.
Testing for viral hepatitis is via a few simple blood tests.