Q: What is Hepatitis?
A: “Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Q: What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?
A: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.
Q: What is Hepatitis A?
A: Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.
Q: What is Hepatitis B?
A: Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. For some people, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness but for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection. Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2 percent to 6 percent of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.
Q: What is Hepatitis C?
A: Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. It is often called the “silent epidemic,” because people can be infected for decades and have no idea they have it. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.” Many healthcare providers don’t realize liver function tests do not have to be elevated to initiate treatment.
While Hepatitis C can lead to liver transplantation, but even after a transplant, medication to eliminate the virus is needed.
Fighting Hepatitis C: One Woman’s Story
Q: Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?
A: Talk to your doctor about being tested for Hepatitis C if any of the following are true:
- You were born from 1945 through 1965.
- You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you injected only one time or many years ago.
- You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987.
- You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
- You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
- You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
- You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needlestick or other sharp object injury.
- You are infected with HIV.
Today, there are oral medications that can cure Hepatitis C. Treatment may be as short as 8 to 12 weeks. Plus, patients no longer need to have weekly injections of a medication called Interferon, which has been associated with significant side effects.
Join us for a free educational seminar, “What You Don’t Know About Hepatitis C,” Sept. 7 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hartford Hospital Wellness Center at Blue Back Square in West Hartford.
Talk to your primary care physician about being tested for Hepatitis C. If you need a primary care MD, book an appointment with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group now, or call 877.707.4442. If you are currently living with Hepatitis C, Hartford Hospital’s Hepatology Clinic provides expert care with recognized cure rates of up to 100 percent. Call 860.972.4262 to schedule an appointment.