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Understanding Hepatitis A and/or Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis FAQs
Hepatitis A FAQs
Hepatitis B FAQs

Hepatitis FAQs

Hepatitis is an inflammation or infection of the liver.

Viral hepatitis is a liver infection caused by a virus. In the US, the three most common viruses that cause viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A and/or hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines. Hepatitis C is not vaccine preventable.

Signs and symptoms of viral hepatitis may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Loss of appetite (not hungry)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Light-colored feces (stool)
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • Muscle or joint pain

Yes. Both hepatitis A and hepatitis B can result in serious illness.

Most people with hepatitis A are sick for up to 2 months; some are sick for up to 6 months, and some must be cared for in the hospital.

A person can be infected with hepatitis B virus and/or hepatitis A virus without having signs and symptoms. While most acute hepatitis B infections in adults result in complete recovery, fulminant (serious disease with liver failure) hepatitis occurs in about 1%-2% of acutely infected persons. About 200-300 Americans die of fulminant disease each year. Although the consequences of acute hepatitis B infection can be severe, most of the serious complications associated with this infection are due to chronic infection.

Hepatitis B can lead to chronic (lifelong) infection in about 5% of infected people. In the US, 3,000-4,000 people die from hepatitis B-related cirrhosis (liver disease) and about 1,000-1,500 people die of hepatitis B-related liver cancer each year in the US. More than 1 million people in the US have chronic hepatitis B.

No. Some people with hepatitis A or hepatitis B may notice no obvious signs or symptoms, or their signs/symptoms may be mild.

Yes. People infected with hepatitis A or hepatitis B can spread the disease to others, even if they do not show signs or symptoms.

Hepatitis A FAQs

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis A virus is passed in the feces (stool) of the infected person. It can be spread from one person to another during close personal contact. Examples include living in the same house with a person who has hepatitis A and having sexual relations with someone who has hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A can also be spread through contaminated food or water. This can happen when fruits and vegetables are grown or handled in unsanitary (dirty) conditions or when human waste gets in the water supply. In the US, drinking water is purified so that hepatitis A virus is killed before it enters the water supply.

In the US, activities that can increase a person’s risk of getting hepatitis A include but are not limited to:

  • Living with a person infected with hepatitis A
  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis A. Sexual activity can be heterosexual (between a man and a woman) or homosexual (between two men or between two women)
  • Traveling to a place (usually outside the US) where hepatitis A virus is more common

Vaccination can help prevent hepatitis A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis A vaccination for:

  • All children 12-23 months of age
  • Any person seeking protection from hepatitis A infection
  • Persons who use street (illicit) drugs by needle (injectable) or not by needle (non-injectable)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Children older than 23 months of age who live in areas where vaccination programs target older children, who are at increased risk for infection, or for whom immunity against hepatitis A is desired
  • Persons who travel to or work in countries with intermediate or high risk of hepatitis A infection
  • Persons with chronic liver disease
  • Persons who receive clotting factor concentrates
  • Persons working with hepatitis A virus in a laboratory or other research setting
  • Unvaccinated persons who may have close personal contact (for example, household or regular babysitting) with an international adoptee during the first 60 days after arrival in the US from a country with high or intermediate rates of hepatitis A

Hepatitis B FAQs

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.

The most common ways that people get hepatitis B are sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis B, exposure to needles, medical or dental procedures where instruments are contaminated with hepatitis B virus, or when a mother passes hepatitis B to an infant at birth.

In the US, activities that can increase a person’s risk of getting hepatitis B include but are not limited to:

  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis B. Sexual activity can be heterosexual (between a man and a woman) or homosexual (between two men or between two women)
  • Using injectable illegal drugs and/or sharing needles
  • Getting a tattoo or body part pierced or having acupuncture

Yes. People who may be at higher risk of hepatitis B or complications include:

  • People who have sex with someone infected with hepatitis B (even if the infected person does not have any signs or symptoms)
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • People with diabetes
  • People on dialysis
  • People who travel to countries where hepatitis B is common
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Healthcare personnel and public safety workers who are potentially exposed to blood or other infectious body fluids
  • People with chronic liver disease

Vaccination can help prevent hepatitis B. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis B vaccination for:

  • All children between birth and 18 months of age
  • Older children and adolescents who did not previously receive the hepatitis B vaccine
  • Any person seeking protection from hepatitis B infection
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (for example, having more than 1 sex partner during the previous 6 months)
  • Persons seeking diagnosis or treatment of a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Current or recent injection drug users
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Healthcare personnel and public safety workers who are potentially exposed to blood or other infectious body fluids
  • Persons with diabetes younger than 60 years of age. If you are older than 60, speak to your healthcare provider
  • Persons with end-stage renal disease, including patients receiving hemodialysis
  • Persons with HIV infection
  • Persons with chronic liver disease
  • Persons who live in the same household as and/or have sexual relations with someone with hepatitis B
  • Persons who work at institutions that care for people with developmental disabilities
  • Persons who travel to places outside of the US where there are medium to high rates of hepatitis B
  • All adults in the following settings: STD treatment facilities, HIV testing and treatment facilities, facilities providing drug abuse treatment and prevention, healthcare facilities with services for injection drug users or men who have sex with men, correctional facilities (prisons), end-stage renal disease programs and facilities for dialysis, and institutions and nonresidential daycare facilities for persons with developmental disabilities