Viral Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B: Types and Transmission of Liver Inflammation Due to Virus Infection

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by infection with a virus. Although various different viral infections can lead to hepatitis, the most common forms of the disease are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, each of which is due to a corresponding virus.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is the most common type of viral hepatitis worldwide. It is caused by infection with hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is spread by eating or drinking food or water that has been contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. As a consequence, HAV is most commonly a problem in places where sanitation is poor and is less often seen in developed countries.

Hepatitis A causes flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain and jaundice that may last for weeks or months. There is no specific treatment for the disease, but people who have been infected with HAV are immune to the virus for the rest of their life.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B, caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV), is also very common, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Like HAV, HBV is less prevalent in Europe and North America. As the virus is present in the bodily fluids of an infected person, the disease is usually spread by unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles among drug-users or blood transfusions. Hepatitis B can also be passed from a mother to her baby during birth.

The symptoms of HBV infection are flu-like but are often late to develop, so people with hepatitis B are often unaware that they have the disease. In some people, the disease becomes chronic, and serious liver problems such as cirrhosis or liver cancer can result. Medications are available to treat both acute and chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis Viruses are Common Worldwide

Although the various hepatitis viruses all cause inflammation of the liver, the viruses are unrelated to each other and are transmitted and treated in differing ways. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are the most common and widespread types of viral hepatitis worldwide, particularly in resource-poor countries, but are less commonly seen in developed countries.

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