Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver tissue. All hepatitis types target the liver but can either be acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis typically lasts fewer than six months whereas chronic hepatitis is lifelong. While they all share some symptoms in common, there are three primary and six overall forms of hepatitis viruses that affect the liver.
1. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is transmitted through the feces of those infected with the virus. The virus is typically spread through oral contact with contaminated food due to poor hygiene. However, hepatitis A rarely results in liver failure and has a vaccination.
2. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is transmitted via bodily fluids, which can be primarily spread through sexual contact and sharing needles. Pregnant women who have hepatitis B can also pass the virus onto their child at birth. Hepatitis B increases the risk of liver diseases such as cirrhosis, liver failure, as well as liver cancer without treatment. Hepatitis B also has a vaccination.
3. Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is spread through the blood of infected individuals. Sharing needles, contaminated blood transfusions, personal hygiene items such as razors, and in rare cases, sexual contact can cause the transmission of the virus. Hepatitis C does not yet have a vaccine and can result in liver failure and cancer without care and treatment.
4. Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D can also be contracted by those infected with hepatitis B as hepatitis D requires a protein produced by hepatitis B to target the liver. Just like hepatitis B, however, hepatitis D is also spread through contaminated blood; typically due to sharing needles, unscreened blood transfusions, and sexual contact.
5. Hepatitis E
Hepatitis E is the same as hepatitis A and transmitted via contaminated feces. Hepatitis E only differs from hepatitis A in where it is found, which is Asia.
6. Hepatitis G
Hepatitis G is a new type of the hepatitis virus and is still relatively rare. Hepatitis G is spread via sex, contaminated blood, and sharing needles, and the virus is usually asymptomatic.
While the advancements in medical science have lowered the incidence rate of most hepatitis viruses, hepatitis B and C are still the most common types, affecting nearly 5 million people in the United States combined.
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