Hepatitis is a liver infection caused by a virus. There are several kinds of hepatitis virus.
- Hepatitis A. This virus is in the feces (poop) of an infected person. It spreads when a person eats or drinks something that has been in contact with the virus.
- Hepatitis B. This virus spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, and blood. It is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Hepatitis B does not spread when people hold hands, share utensils or dishes, kiss, hug, cough, sneeze, or breastfeed.
- Hepatitis C. This virus spreads through contact with infected blood—such as sharing needles used to inject drugs or (rarely) unprotected sex.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
All types of hepatitis may have similar symptoms but some people who are infected with the viruses have no symptoms. Hepatitis can still spread when there are no symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- Very tired
- Sick to the stomach (nausea)
- Not hungry
- Losing weight without trying
- Pain on the right side under the rib cage (where the liver is)
- Sore muscles
- May have yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine, or clay-coloured feces
If you have many symptoms, visit a health care provider. Only a blood test can confirm if you have Hepatitis.
There is a vaccine that protects against Hepatitis A and B. It comes in two shots and is nearly 100% effective. If you are around someone who has Hepatitis, the vaccine may prevent you from getting the disease. You can also get the vaccine if you have been exposed to Hepatitis.
There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C.
Healthy choices to protect against Hepatitis A
- Wash you hands before eating or drinking
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them
- Drink clean water
Healthy choices to Protect against Hepatitis B and C
- If you work in health care , follow safety guidelines. Wear protective gloves and clothing, and properly dispose of needles and other sharp objects.
- If you get a tattoo, body piercing, or acupuncture, make sure the instruments and supplies are single-use or sterilized.
- If you inject drugs, do not share needles or other equipment such as cotton, spoons, and water.
- Practice safer sex. If you are having sex, use condoms to reduce the risk of getting HPV and other STIs. Talk to your partner(s) about their sexual history.
Treating Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A usually goes away by itself. To recover faster, drink lots of water and eat healthy foods.
Unlike other forms, hepatitis A does not lead to long-term illness or serious liver damage. But while you have it, rest until your energy returns. As you start to feel better, slowly return to regular activities. If you go too fast, you may feel sick again.
You can get Hepatitis A only once. After that, your body is immune.
Treating Hepatitis B or C
Talk to a health care care provider about treatment for Hepatitis B or C. Some people can take an antiviral medicine. It is not the right choice for everyone. If liver damage is mild, you may not need medicine. If you decide to take medicine, the best treatment is a combination of medicines that fight infection.
An important part of treating all hepatitis (A,B,C) is to take care of yourself. You may feel better if you exercise and eat healthy foods. Avoiding alcohol and drugs that affect the liver helps to prevent further damage.