The most common blood-borne infection in the U.S.
“Hepatitis” refers to an inflammation of the liver, which can have several possible causes, including certain medications, diseases, excess alcohol use, or viruses. Viral hepatitis is the most common form, and the most common cause of liver disease in the world. Inflammation swells the liver, preventing it from working correctly—which can result in liver disease, scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure, or cancer. Hepatitis can be a short-term, acute disorder, or a longer-term, chronic condition.
Hepatitis C, the most common form, is curable, including in individuals living with HIV who are co-infected with HCV.
Know your A,B,C's
Five forms of viral hepatitis are known. Of these, HBV and HCV are especially serious, particularly in those co-infected by HIV.
- Hepatitis A: Spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with human waste. Hepatitis A is rarely life-threatening and can be prevented by a vaccine. Most people recover from HAV with no lasting liver damage.
- Hepatitis B: Spread through bodily fluids—through sexual contact, contaminated needles, or from mother to child at birth. Hepatitis B may scar the liver (cirrhosis) and lead to liver cancer. HBV can be prevented by a vaccine.
- Hepatitis C: Spread through bodily fluids, hepatitis C is the most common type of hepatitis, and the most common blood-borne infection in the United States, affecting 3.2 million people. Hepatitis C is common in 25% of HIV-positive people and 90% of HIV-positive injection drug users. It may scar the liver and is more severe in patients with HIV. No vaccine exists to prevent HCV, but it is curable with effective treatment.
- Hepatitis D: A rare form spread only in the presence of the hepatitis B virus; it often infects intravenous (IV) drug users. Hepatitis D is a serious co-occurring condition for those affected by hepatitis B. No vaccine exists to prevent HDV.
- Hepatitis E: Similar to hepatitis A, hepatitis E is rare in the United States and rarely life threatening. No vaccine exists to prevent HEV.
Although there’s no vaccine to prevent HCV, it is curable with treatment, including for those co-infected with HIV.