The A, B, Cs of Viral Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis is an infection that affects the liver. There are at least six different types of hepatitis (A-G), with the three most common types being hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is an acute infection and people usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause a chronic, persistent infection, which can lead to chronic liver disease. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A and B, however there is not one for hepatitis C.
The New York State Department of Health, along with the New York State County Health Departments, offer ways to control and prevent the spread of hepatitis infection. Public health clinics, located in each county, may offer testing and vaccination (hepatitis A, hepatitis B) to those at risk for hepatitis. In addition, hepatitis counseling and educational information is offered to individuals who may have been exposed to hepatitis, engage in behaviors putting them at risk for developing infection, and to those who may already know they are infected and want to learn about how they can protect others from becoming infected.
For more information about hepatitis testing, counseling and education in your county, please contact your county health department.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus is found in the stool (feces) of HAV-infected people. Hepatitis A can easily spread from one person to another by putting something in the mouth (even though it may look clean) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. This can happen when people do not wash their hands after using the toilet and then touch or prepare other people’s food.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is found in blood and certain body fluids. Hepatitis B is spread when a person who is not immune comes in contact with blood or body fluid from an infected person. Hepatitis B is spread by having sex with an infected person without a condom, sharing needles or "works" when "shooting" drugs, needlesticks or sharps exposures in a health care setting, or from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal birth. Exposure to blood in ANY situation can be a risk for transmission.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus is found in blood and certain body fluids. It is spread when a person who is not immune comes in contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. Hepatitis C is spread through sharing needles or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needlestick or sharps exposures in a health care setting, or sometimes from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal birth. It is possible to get hepatitis C from sex, but it is uncommon.