JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting a hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and is joining surrounding states and others across the country in fighting this national epidemic.
With this news, you might be wondering what the difference between hepatitis A, B, and C?
In order to answer that question, you first need to answer the question...
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and when the liver is inflamed of damaged, its function can be affected. According to the Center for Disease Control, heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus.
In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus.
What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by three different viruses. Each can cause similar symptoms, but they are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as short-term infections but in some people, the virus remains in the body, and causes chronic (lifelong) infection.
There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B; however, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection.
Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.
Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.
For some people, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness but for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection.
Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2%–6% of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection or “chronic,” meaning lifelong infection.
- Acute hepatitis C occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can be a short-term illness, but for most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
- Chronic hepatitis C can be a lifelong infection with the hepatitis C virus if left untreated. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and even death.
Approximately 75%–85% of people who become infected with hepatitis C virus will develop a chronic infection.
Approximately 15%–25% of people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus clear it from their bodies without treatment and do not develop chronic infection. Experts do not fully understand why this happens for some people.