What is viral hepatitis?

Posted on: May 22, 2018

Contributor(s): Cullen Quigley


Viral hepatitis is termed by the CDC as “a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E” causing short-term and long-term liver disease for millions across the globe.


Globally, health organizations recognize World Hepatitis Day on July 28th originally established in 2010 by the World Health Organization. It is currently estimated that 325 million people worldwide are living with the most lethal forms, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C.


In 2015, 1.34 million people died from viral hepatitis bringing national attention to the wildly spreading infection. Luckily in the United States, immunizations are available to prevent hepatitis A and B. However, these vaccines do not protect from C, D, or E.


While westernized countries find lower rates of viral hepatitis, it still remains a global problem with the highest rates found in South American, African, Eastern European and Asian countries.


With its high infection rates, many people are unaware of how they can become infected with viral hepatitis in their local environment. According to the CDC, “The five viruses – A, B, C, D, and E- are distinct; they can have different modes of transmission, affect different populations, and result in different health outcomes.”


Types of hepatitis:


Hepatitis A – Usually spread through food, drinks, or objects that were contaminated by feces of an infected person or someone in close personal contact with the infected. It does not lead to chronic liver disease, rarely lethal, and can be prevented via vaccination, sanitation, and food safety.


Hepatitis B – Infection occurs through blood or bodily fluids that are exchanged from mother to child during birth, people engaging in sexual contact, or people using contaminated objects such as needles for medical or drug purposes. This strain is preventable through vaccine and is highly recommended as infection can lead to both acute and chronic liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.


Hepatitis C – It is spread through blood from an infected person typically from injection drug use, unsafe medical injections or procedures, and sometimes mother-to-child transmission during birth. Current treatments can cure over 90% of the infected within two to three months preventing acute and chronic liver diseases. However, it is important to note that there is no vaccine.


Hepatitis D – Infection occurs from blood, but can only come about if the person is infected with hepatitis B. If vaccinated, people can avoid this strain all together.


Hepatitis E – People become infected from contaminated drinking water, which leads to symptoms, that typically clear in 4 to 6 weeks. However, hepatitis E has a high mortality rate, as there are no specific forms of treatment. Though China has a vaccine for hepatitis E, it has not be released or approved yet by any other country.


Viral hepatitis vaccinations are routine in our centers making sure all of our patients are up to date on their immunizations. For those who are infected with any hepatitis or could have been exposed should report immediately to a provider. If caught early, we can stay proactive in creating a plan to prevent health complications and lead to a more positive outcome.