Is Hepatitis A the Same as Hepatitis B?

One might believe that hepatitis A and B are basically the same thing. However, many are unfamiliar with what hepatitis is and does. Learn more about hepatitis, such as the various types and the difference between them by reading further. When you overhear the term hepatitis, it just means one thing: inflammation of your liver. There are several ways that you can develop this health condition. Alcohol and certain medications are some of these causes. It is typically proliferated through viruses of different types; these have been named A, B, C, D, and E. To make everything easier for you, here are well-defined differences between the notable hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A (HAV) and hepatitis B (HBV).

Doctor talking with patient about hepatitis
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Mode of Transmission

The hepatitis A virus (HAV) can be found in the feces of anyone that suffers from hepatitis A. Typically, it is spread through close contact between individuals. This may be through sex or just living in the same house. Another easy way it is transmitted is sharing food and water that has been contaminated by the person conveying the virus. Furthermore, if you go to a place where this infection is breaking out, there’s a high risk of acquiring it yourself.

Hepatitis A leads to acute liver inflammation, and can essentially recover or heal on its own. If you are older, this condition is more serious. As mentioned, hepatitis A can be easily transmitted from one person to another through water and food and close contact with infected individuals.

On the other hand, hepatitis B is particularly found in body fluids such as blood. This is why, when an infected person’s blood or body fluids enter the body of another, he or she can contract the disease. Hepatitis B spreads mostly through unprotected sex with an HBV carrier or use of an infected needle.

The Need for Vaccination

To prevent the contraction or development of hepatitis A, the following individuals should be sure to get vaccinated:

  • 1 to 2-year-old children
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • People who use drugs on the streets
  • Employees working in various parts of the world, except countries such as Canada, the U.S., and Japan
  • People who have personal or close contact with persons who come from HAV-infected countries
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • People who travel internationally

On the other hand, the following are individuals who need vaccinations against hepatitis B:

  • Children and teens aged 0-18; all adults aged 19-59 not previously vaccinated and those 60+ with risk factors or who choose to be vaccinated
  • People who are undergoing dialysis or pre-dialysis
  • Public, municipal, or safety workers prone to exposure of blood and bodily fluids
  • Sexually active individuals
  • HIV-infected individuals
  • People who live with someone diagnosed with hepatitis B
  • Users of drugs through injections
  • Staff and residents of facilities assisting disabled persons
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • Healthcare workers
  • People with diabetes


Hepatitis B typically does not cause symptoms, but here are some symptoms that may occur as a result of hepatitis A infection:

  • Yellowing of your skin
  • Yellowing of the white portion of your eyes
  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue


There is no chronic infection in hepatitis A, but in hepatitis B, there is. When you’ve acquired hepatitis A once, you will not have it again. On the other hand, for hepatitis B, there is a large probability of developing a chronic infection. In the US, about 2000 to 4000 people die of this condition annually. There are differences, however, between how the two types infect your liver.


There are no particular cures for these viruses, though Hep A usually clears on its own. The treatment used for hepatitis A is generally supportive care. This includes avoiding alcohol because that can ostensibly worsen the liver inflammation. Chronic hepatitis B virus is treatable but not curable. This includes medical evaluation of your liver every six to 12 months. You can use various licensed antiviral medications as treatment for HBV. There are definitely differences in the treatment of the two since HBV really needs medical help to be cured. Enrich your knowledge of hepatitis and do your best to avoid it. Though hepatitis A and B share a few similarities, they do have their own notable differences.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Cuthbert JA. Hepatitis A: old and new. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2001 Jan;14(1):38-58.
  • Liang TJ. Hepatitis B: the virus and disease. Hepatology. 2009 May;49(5 Suppl):S13-21.

By Naheed Ali, MD
Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, is the author of "Understanding Hepatitis: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers."