The term hepatitis refers to any type of liver inflammation, not just to viral hepatitis. If your liver is irritated and swollen, you have hepatitis. Liver inflammation can be categorized as either acute or chronic. Acute means that it lasts for less than six months, and chronic means that it lasts for longer than six months. Many different conditions can result in liver inflammation, including hepatitis viruses. Here are the six known hepatitis viruses:
The hepatitis A virus is found in the feces of infected people. It is spread by the mouth contact with something that has been contaminated by an infected person's feces. This is often due to people exercising poor hygiene practices when handling food. Hepatitis A has been spread in restaurant and children's daycare settings.
This virus is spread via blood and other body fluids. It is often transmitted sexually, by needle-sharing among drug users, and by accidental wounds from sharps when administering health care services. It is also possible for a mother with hepatitis B to infect her child during a vaginal delivery. Hepatitis B patients are at a higher risk of developing liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer of the liver.
Like hepatitis B, the hepatitis C virus is spread via body fluids. Drug users sharing needles and health care workers getting pricked with sharps are two ways it is transmitted. While it is possible for to be infected with hepatitis C through sexual contact, this is considered rare. Hepatitis C patients are at an increased risk of cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Hepatitis D infection is only possible if you are infected with hepatitis B. The D virus needs hepatitis B. The B virus makes a protein that it needs to infect liver cells. The hepatitis D virus is transmitted via sharing needles, transfusions with contaminated blood and via sex.
This virus is mostly found in Asia and is similar to hepatitis A in that it is spread via the fecal-oral route.
This is a newly discovered and relatively rare cause of hepatitis. Hepatitis G, also known as HGV, usually does not cause any symptoms in the infected person. The virus is transmitted by sexual contact, transfusion and shared needles.
Prevention efforts, such as vaccinations, have greatly reduced the rate of infections; however, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that there are between 800,000 and 1.4 million people with hepatitis B in the United States. There are also between 2.9 and 3.7 million with chronic hepatitis C.