What Are Hepatitis A, B & C?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It is most commonly caused by different viruses called A, B, and C. These viruses have some key differences.
Hep A has a very effective vaccine.
This form is most commonly caused by consuming food that has been contaminated with fecal matter (poo). Food in the US can become contaminated with A.
However, it’s more likely in countries where sanitation standards are lower. That’s why vaccines are often recommended for people traveling abroad.
Hep B also has a very effective vaccine.
You can get hep B through bodily fluids, usually during sex, sharing needles, touching infected open sores, unsanitary medical facilities, or poorly managed tattoo parlors.
Hep C has no vaccine. But it is curable 95% of the time.
You can get hepatitis C through bodily fluids, usually during sex, sharing needles, etc.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C, B & A
- Lack of hunger
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Joint pain
- Jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and eyes
It can take decades for more serious symptoms to happen. And even initial symptoms can take 2 to 6 months.
Fact or Myth: Getting Hepatitis from Toilet Seats or Kissing
Hepatitis B and C do not pass from person to person through sharing utensils, drinking after each other, kissing, breastfeeding, coughing, or sneezing.
However, you can get hep A through kissing or sharing bodily fluids. The virus can’t stay alive on a toilet seat long enough for someone to get it that way.
Risks & Dangers
A baby can catch B or C during birth. And they are the most common causes of liver cancer.
Those with hep A, B, or C may have no symptoms early on, and A and B can clear up on their own. However, some people who have hep B will develop long-term, chronic symptoms. And if hep C goes untreated, it will almost always progress to a life-long chronic condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Statistics to Know
Most Common Type
Around 11,500 people in the US contracted hepatitis A in 2021. And 13,300 contracted hepatitis B. Approximately 640,000 people in the US live with long-term hep B symptoms. An estimated 66% of people who contract hep B never get diagnosed.
Hepatitis C is much more common than A and B, though, with 69,800 new cases diagnosed in 2021. 2.2 million people in the US are living with hep C. An estimated 40% of people with hep C don’t know it because they do not have symptoms. But they can still pass it on to others.
Screening & Testing
The CDC does not recommend screening for hepatitis A. Everyone over 18 should have a hepatitis B and C screening test once in their lifetime. Pregnant women should get screened for B and C. Those at increased risk or who donate blood or semen should request screening more often.
If you believe that you may have been exposed to hep B or C, get tested as soon as possible when treatment can cure or prevent long-term complications.
In the state of Colorado, you can order Hepatitis A, B, and C tests without an order from a provider. Or get tested for 10 common STDs at once with a 10 STD panel. Learn more about ordering your own STD testing online.
Treatment for Hepatitis A, B & C
Is It Curable or Treatable?
Hepatitis A and B are not curable. But they usually clear up on their own. Hepatitis C is curable 95% of the time.
Hepatitis A, B, and C are treatable with rest, hydration, and nutrition. But this only eases symptoms. Those with hep B will typically receive antiviral medications to reduce the chance of long-term complications. Those with hep C must take an anti-viral for 12 weeks to cure the condition. And the sooner a person starts treatment, the more likely they are to recover fully.