5 Different Types of Viral Hepatitis

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There are five types of viral hepatitis—A, B, C, D, and E. Each is caused by a different hepatitis virus. Learn about how you might get each of these viruses, how you could pass them to other people, the illnesses they cause, and treatment.


Watch Now: The Five Types of Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by eating food and drinking water contaminated with a virus called HAV. It can also be caused by anal-oral contact during sex. While it can cause swelling and inflammation in the liver, it doesn't lead to chronic, or life long, disease.

Almost everyone who gets hepatitis A has a full recovery. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A that can be given to children or at-risk adults. Practicing good hygiene and handwashing can also reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by the virus HBV. It is spread by contact with an infected person's blood, semen, or other body fluid. And, it is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

You can get hepatitis B by:

  • Having unprotected sex (not using a condom) with an infected person.
  • Sharing drug needles (for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine or legal drugs like vitamins and steroids).
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing with dirty (unsterile) needles and tools that were used on someone else.
  • Getting pricked with a needle that has infected blood on it (healthcare workers can get hepatitis B this way).
  • Sharing a toothbrush, razor, or other personal items with an infected person.
  • An infected woman can give hepatitis B to her baby at birth or through her breast milk.
  • Through a bite from another person.

With hepatitis B, the liver also swells. Hepatitis B can be a serious infection that can cause liver damage, which may result in cancer. Some people are not able to get rid of the virus, which makes the infection chronic, or life long.

Blood banks test all donated blood for hepatitis B, greatly reducing the risk of getting the virus from blood transfusions or blood products. There is also a vaccine for hepatitis B. It is recommended for everyone, from infants to adults, to prevent contracting the disease.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is caused by the virus HCV. It is spread the same way as hepatitis B, through contact with an infected person's blood, semen, or body fluid (see above).

Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C causes swelling of the liver and can cause liver damage that can lead to cancer. Most people who have hepatitis C develop a chronic infection. This may lead to scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis.

Blood banks test all donated blood for hepatitis C too, significantly reducing transmission risk from transfusions and blood products. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. You need to use universal precautions to avoid exposure to blood and body fluids, as with HIV.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is caused by the virus HDV. You can only get hepatitis D if you are already infected with hepatitis B. It is spread through contact with infected blood, dirty needles that have HDV on them, and unprotected sex (not using a condom) with a person infected with HDV.

Hepatitis D causes swelling of the liver. Preventing hepatitis B by being vaccinated and avoiding blood and body fluid exposure is the best way to prevent getting hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is caused by the virus HEV. You get hepatitis E by drinking water infected with the virus. This type of hepatitis doesn't often occur in the U.S.

It causes swelling of the liver, but no long-term damage. It can also be spread through oral-anal contact. There is no vaccine for this virus. Practice good hygiene and avoid drinking tap water when traveling internationally.

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