ZocdocAnswersWhat is the difference between the different kinds of hepatitis?

Question

What is the difference between the different kinds of hepatitis?

My doctor was talking about getting a hepatitis vaccine, but I can't remember which one she said. What's the difference between them. Are the different letters contracted in different ways?

Answer

There are at least 7 different types of hepatitis viruses that have been found. Only three of them (A, B, and C) are common enough for you to worry about. Hepatitis A is a virus found in poorly cooked foods and water that has been contaminated. We usually worry about hepatitis A when traveling to countries with water that is not cleaned properly. Hepatitis A can make you really sick for a few weeks but is rarely fatal and does not cause long term complications. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A. Hepatitis B is transmitted by blood or through sex. It causes both short term hepatitis and long term hepatitis and can cause the liver to be cirrhotic. It also increases the chances that you would get liver cancer. Hepatitis B rates have decreased because the vaccine is given to all children now and is very effective. Hepatitis C is transmitted mostly through blood (i.e. sharing needles) and usually causes a chronic hepatitis with cirrhosis. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. We now recommend that everyone (whether you travel or not) get the hepatitis A and B vaccines. This can be done by your primary care physician. I suggest that you schedule an appointment today to get this taken care of.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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