What Are Hepatitis A, B, and C?

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is now recognized as the most common vaccine–preventive disease in travelers. Hepatitis A is 1,000 times more common than cholera and 100 times more common than typhoid among travelers.

Hepatitis A is found throughout the world but is especially common in developing countries with poor hygiene and sanitation. Most cases in the U.S. occur from person–to–person transmission, especially from children to adults.

People can also get Hepatitis A by consuming water or ice, raw shellfish from sewage–contaminated water, and nuts, vegetables, and other foods that may have been contaminated during handling.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus found in the blood and body fluids of persons infected by this virus. It is not spread through food or water or by casual contact.

Hepatitis B can be spread by sexual contact, by sharing razors or needles, from mother to infant during birth, or by tatooing or body piercing with unsterile equipment. Every year more than 5,000 Americans die from Hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis B, once caught, has no cure. There is, however, prevention in the form of the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Most people infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) have no symptoms. In fact, most people don't know they have the Hepatitis C infection until liver damage shows up, decades later, during routine medical tests.

Hepatitis C is one of several hepatitis viruses and is generally considered to be among the most serious of these viruses. Hepatitis C is passed through contact with contaminated blood—most commonly through needles shared during illegal drug use.

To protect against Hepatitis C, follow these common–sense rules;

  • Do not share your toothbrush, razor, scissors, clippers, or anything else that coud have blood on it.
  • Do not get a tatoo or body piercing.
  • Wear a condom during sex.
  • Clean up blood with a diluted household bleach (half a cup of bleach to two cups of water).
  • Wash dishes, silverware, and linens in soap and water.

Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body.



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