Registered Nurse

Hepatitis

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Learn what it is, how it spreads and how to prevent it.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by viruses, toxins, some drugs and alcohol abuse. In the U.S., three types of viral hepatitis are common: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Most people who have hepatitis don't know they are infected. To learn more, click the buttons below.


 Hepatitis A  Hepatitis B  Hepatitis C
Key facts
  •  Effective vaccine is available.
  • Outbreaks still occur in the United States.
  • Common in many countries, especially those without modern sanitation.
  • About two in three people with hepatitis B do not know they are infected.
  • One in 12 Asian Americans has chronic hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis B is a leading cause of liver cancer.
  • About 50% of people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected.
  • Three in four people with hepatitis C were born between 1945-1965.
  •  Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer.
How does it spread? Hepatitis A spreads when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.
Hepatitis B spreads primarily when blood, semen, or certain other body fluids from an infected person—even in microscopic amounts—enters the body of someone who is not infected.

Other ways hepatitis B spreads:

  • Born to an infected mother.
  • Sex with an infected person.
  • Sharing equipment that has been contaminated with blood from an infected person, like needles, syringes, and medical equipment, like glucose monitors.
  • Sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors.
  • Poor infection control has resulted in outbreaks in healthcare facilities.

Hepatitis C spreads when blood from an infected person—even in microscopic amounts—enters the body of someone who is not infected.

Ways this can happen:

  • Sharing equipment that has been contaminated with blood from an infected person, like needles and syringes.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, when the national blood supply was not tested for hepatitis C.
  • Poor infection control has resulted in outbreaks in healthcare facilities.
Who should get vaccinated?
  • All children at age 1.
  • Travelers to regions where hepatitis A is common.
  • Family and caregivers of recent adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Users of certain recreational drugs, whether injected or not.
  • People with certain medical conditions including chronic liver disease, clotting-factor disorders.
  • All infants at birth.
  • Unvaccinated adults with diabetes.
  • Uninfected people who live with or are sexual partners of someone with hepatitis B.
  • People with multiple sex partners.
  • People seeking evaluation or treatment for an STD.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who inject drugs.
  • People with certain medical conditions, including HIV, chronic liver disease.
  • Travelers to regions where hepatitis B is common.
No vaccine exists for hepatitis C.
 Who should get tested? Experts do not recommend routine testing for hepatitis A.
  • People born in regions with moderate or high rates of hepatitis B.
  • People born in the U.S. and not vaccinated as infants whose parents were born in regions with high rates of hepatitis B.
  • Household, needle-sharing, or sexual contacts of anyone with hepatitis B.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who inject drugs.
  • Patients with abnormal liver tests.
  • Hemodialysis (kidney dialysis) patients.
  • People who need immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapy.
  • People with HIV.
  • All pregnant women.
  • People born between 1945-1965.
  • Recipients of clotting factor concentrates before 1987.
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or donated organs before July 1992.
  • People who have injected drugs.
  • Long-term hemodialysis patients.
  • People with known exposures to hepatitis C (for example, healthcare workers after needle sticks, recipients of blood or organs from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C).
  • People with HIV.
  • People with signs or symptoms of liver diseaseInformation adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

People who are at high risk for hepatitis A or B may be eligible for free immunizations at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Call our hepatitis program at (253) 798-6410.

Viral Hepatitis. Are you at risk?

Take this five minute Hepatitis Risk Assessment developed by the CDC and get a personalized report.