Hepatitis, Viral

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its ability to process nutrients, filter blood, and fight infections is decreased. There are different types of hepatitis, and each type is usually caused by a virus, but it can also be caused by heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B and C. These three types of hepatitis cause similar symptoms, but they are apread in different ways and can affect the liver in different ways. If a person has one type of viral hepatitis, it is still possible to get the other types of hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation.


Most people who are infected with the hepatitis virus have no symptoms. Others have loss of appetite, aching muscles and/or joint pain, diarrhea, dark urine, light-colored stools, vague abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), fever, or fatigue. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

What you should do

To avoid viral hepatitis

  • Get the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines series.
  • Wear gloves if you have any chance of touching blood or other body fluids.
  • Don’t share or re-use needles or works.
  • Don’t share personal-care items, such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files, combs, or washcloths. There may be contaminated blood on these items that you cannot see.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex.
  • If you are a healthcare worker or first responder, always follow universal precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper on a young child or an adult.
  • Wash your hands before preparing food.

If you think you have been exposed to viral hepatitis

  • Contact your healthcare provider or go to a hepatitis C testing, counseling, and referral site to get a blood test. If you think you were exposed to hepatitis A or B, call your healthcare provider to get a hepatitis A or B blood test.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you or other people who live with you need Immune Globulin (IG) or hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG). IG may be recommended for people who live with or have close contact with someone who has hepatitis. HBIG may be recommended for someone who was exposed to hepatitis B.

If you are infected

  • Rest.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not use injection drugs. Only take medications that are prescribed by your doctor.
  • Get both hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations to protect your liver from these infections.
  • Do not donate your blood, body organs, tissue, or sperm.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal-care articles that might have contaminated blood or other body fluids on them.
  • Do not share needles or works for injecting drugs, body piercing, or tattooing.
  • Cover your cuts and open sores.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex. more
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about your sex partner getting tested for hepatitis C.