Conditions InDepth: Viral Hepatitis
by Debra Wood, RN
Viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver. There are several different viruses that cause hepatitis. They are called hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses. The viruses are transmitted in different ways. Complications include chronic liver disease, liver failure, and liver cancer for some types of hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is usually found in the stool (bowel movements) of infected people. It is spread by:
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and saliva. Hepatitis B can be spread by:
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C virus is carried in the blood of people infected with the virus. It is primarily spread through contact with infected blood. It can occasionally be spread other ways. HCV can be spread by:
Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It occurs only in people who have hepatitis B. Patients may have more severe disease and a higher risk of liver damage than those infected with HBV alone. It is spread through contact with infected blood and through:
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), which can be found in the stool (bowel movements) of infected people. It is uncommon in the US, but it is a risk to international travelers. The virus is spread by:
What are the risk factors for hepatitis?
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
What are the treatments for hepatitis?
Are there screening tests for hepatitis?
How can I reduce my risk of hepatitis?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with hepatitis?
Where can I get more information about hepatitis?
Hepatitis A. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/hepatitisa/ . Updated August 17, 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: http://www.cdcnpin.org/scripts/hepatitis/index.asp . Updated October 15, 2010. Accessed January 19, 2011.
What I need to know about Hepatitis B. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepb_ez/index.htm . Published April 2009. Accessed January 19, 2011.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 3/15/2013