Oct 25 08:52 2011 mark hohman Print This Article

"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. 

"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver . The most common types are Hepatitis A,Guest Posting Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.


Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected. About 80,000 new infections occur each year.


Hepatitis A, caused by infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), has an incubation period of approximately 28 days (range: 15–50 days). HAV replicates in the liver and is shed in high concentrations in feces from 2 weeks before to 1 week after the onset of clinical illness. HAV infection produces a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease.

However, 10%–15% of patients might experience a relapse of symptoms during the 6 months after acute illness. Acute liver failure from Hepatitis A is rare (overall case-fatality rate: 0.5%). The risk for symptomatic infection is directly related to age, with >80% of adults having symptoms compatible with acute viral hepatitis and the majority of children having either asymptomatic or unrecognized infection. Antibody produced in response to HAV infection persists for life and confers protection against reinfection.

HAV infection is primarily transmitted by the fecal-oral route, by either person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Although viremia occurs early in infection and can persist for several weeks after onset of symptoms, bloodborne transmission of HAV is uncommon. HAV occasionally might be detected in saliva in experimentally infected animals, but transmission by saliva has not been demonstrated.

In the United States, nearly half of all reported Hepatitis A cases have no specific risk factor identified. Among adults with identified risk factors, the majority of cases are among men who have sex with other men, persons who use illegal drugs, and international travelers.

Because transmission of HAV during sexual activity probably occurs because of fecal-oral contact, measures typically used to prevent the transmission of other STDs (e.g., use of condoms) do not prevent HAV transmission. In addition, efforts to promote good personal hygiene have not been successful in interrupting outbreaks of Hepatitis A. Vaccination is the most effective means of preventing HAV transmission among persons at risk for infection. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all children at age 1 year, for persons who are at increased risk for infection, for persons who are at increased risk for complications from Hepatitis A, and for any person wishing to obtain immunity.


Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). The incubation period from the time of exposure to onset of symptoms is 6 weeks to 6 months. HBV is found in highest concentrations in blood and in lower concentrations in other body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions, and wound exudates). HBV infection can be self-limited or chronic.

In adults, only approximately half of newly acquired HBV infections are symptomatic, and approximately 1% of reported cases result in acute liver failure and death. Risk for chronic infection is inversely related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants and 30% of infected children aged <5 years become chronically infected, compared with 2%–6% of adults. Among persons with chronic HBV infection, the risk for premature death from cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma is 15%–25%. HBV is efficiently transmitted by percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure to infectious blood or body fluids that contain blood. The primary risk factors that have been associated with infection are unprotected sex with an infected partner, birth to an infected mother, unprotected sex with more than one partner, men who have sex with other men (MSM), history of other STDs, and illegal injection drug use.

CDC’s national strategy to eliminate transmission of HBV infection includes

·         Routine infant vaccination

·         Vaccination of previously unvaccinated children and adolescents through age 18 years

·         Vaccination of previously unvaccinated adults at increased risk for infection

High vaccination coverage rates, with subsequent declines in acute Hepatitis B incidence, have been achieved among infants and adolescents. In contrast, vaccination coverage among the majority of high-risk adult groups (e.g., persons with more than one sex partner in the previous 6 months, MSM, and injection drug users) have remained low, and the majority of new infections occur in these high-risk groups. STD clinics and other settings that provide services targeted to high-risk adults are ideal sites in which to provide Hepatitis B vaccination to adults at risk for HBV infection. All unvaccinated adults seeking services in these settings should be assumed to be at risk for Hepatitis B and should receive Hepatitis B vaccination.

In 2007, 4,519 cases of acute Hepatitis B in the United States were reported to CDC; the overall incidence of reported acute Hepatitis B was 1.5 per 100,000 population, the lowest ever recorded. However, because many HBV infections are either asymptomatic or never reported, the actual number of new infections is estimated to be approximately tenfold higher. In 2007, an estimated 43,000 persons in the United States were newly infected with HBV. Rates are highest among adults, particularly males aged 25–44 years.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States; approximately 3.2 million persons are chronically infected. Although HCV is not efficiently transmitted sexually, persons at risk for infection through injection drug use might seek care in STD treatment facilities, HIV counseling and testing facilities, correctional facilities, drug treatment facilities, and other public health settings where STD and HIV prevention and control services are available.

Sixty to seventy percent of persons newly infected with HCV typically are usually asymptomatic or have a mild clinical illness. HCV RNA can be detected in blood within 1–3 weeks after exposure. The average time from exposure to antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) seroconversion is 8–9 weeks, and anti-HCV can be detected in >97% of persons by 6 months after exposure. Chronic HCV infection develops in 70%–85% of HCV-infected persons; 60%–70% of chronically infected persons have evidence of active liver disease. The majority of infected persons might not be aware of their infection because they are not clinically ill. However, infected persons serve as a source of transmission to others and are at risk for chronic liver disease or other HCV-related chronic diseases decades after infection.

HCV is most efficiently transmitted through large or repeated percutaneous exposure to infected blood (e.g., through transfusion of blood from unscreened donors or through use of injecting drugs). Although much less frequent, occupational, perinatal, and sexual exposures also can result in transmission of HCV.

The role of sexual activity in the transmission of HCV has been controversial. Case-control studies have reported an association between acquiring HCV infection and exposure to a sex contact with HCV infection or exposure to multiple sex partners. Surveillance data also indicate that 15%–20% of persons reported with acute HCV infection have a history of sexual exposure in the absence of other risk factors. Overall, these findings indicate that sexual transmission of HCV is possible but inefficient.

Although only 849 cases of confirmed acute Hepatitis C were reported in the United States in 2007, CDC estimates that approximately 17,000 new HCV infections occurred that year, after adjusting for asymptomatic infection and underreporting. Persons newly infected with HCV are usually asymptomatic, so acute Hepatitis C is rarely identified or reported.

Approximately 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic HCV infection. Infection is most prevalent among those born during 1945–1965, the majority of whom were likely infected during the 1970s and 1980s when rates were highest.


Hepatitis D, also known as "delta hepatitis," is a serious liver disease caused by infection with the Hepatitis D virus (HDV), which is an RNA virus structurally unrelated to the Hepatitis A, B, or C viruses. Hepatitis D, which can be acute or chronic, is uncommon in the United States. HDV is an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate and only occurs among people who are infected with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). HDV is transmitted through percutaneous or mucosal contact with infectious blood and can be acquired either as a coinfection with HBV or as superinfection in persons with HBV infection. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis D, but it can be prevented in persons who are not already HBV-infected by Hepatitis B vaccination


Hepatitis E is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) that usually results in an acute infection. It does not lead to a chronic infection. While rare in the United States, Hepatitis E is common in many parts of the world. Transmission: Ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts; outbreaks are usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. Vaccination: There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for Hepatitis E.

Hepatitis E is believed to be uncommon in the United States. When HEV infection does occur, it is usually the result of travel to a developing country where Hepatitis E is endemic. However, rare cases have been reported among persons with no history of travel to HEV-hyperendemic countries. Furthermore, some recent studies have found a high prevalence of antibodies to HEV in the general population.

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About Article Author

mark hohman
mark hohman

Mark Hohman has been a radiation therapist, dosimetrist and director during his 15 year healthcare career.  He is now working at selfdirectedce.com radiology continuing education as an owner/developer of a radiology continuing education website.

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