The word "hepatitis" means inflammation (swelling) of the liver, but also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. The virus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route. That means you must get something in your mouth that is contaminated with feces from an infected person. The disease is mild in children but can be more severe in adults. It can cause infected individuals to miss up to six weeks of work.
For more information on hepatitis A, view the following resources:
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis B is usually spread 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 equipment used to inject drugs, sharing razors or toothbrushes or other direct contact with someone’s blood. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.
Acute vs. Chronic
Hepatitis B can be either acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus. Acute infection can - but does not always - lead to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body. Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, and even death.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. For more information on Hepatitis B, visit the CDC website [external site].
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. Common exposures include sharing shaving razors, sharing equipment used to inject drugs, receiving tattoos or piercings from an unprofessional environment, and having unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C. Before screening was widely available in 1992, the infection was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants that may have come from people who were infected with Hepatitis C. People with hemophilia or kidney failure who received treatment before 1992 may also be at risk for the same reasons.
Most people who have Hepatitis C do not know it because they may not have symptoms, as it can take many years of having the infection before symptoms appear. Symptoms might include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, abdominal discomfort, yellowing of the eyes or skin and impaired liver function. If it is not treated, Hepatitis C may progress to major liver problems including cirrhosis (hardening of the liver), liver cancer and death. There is treatment available for Hepatitis C that can effectively cure the infection, but the only way to know if you are infected is to be tested.
Testing for Hepatitis C is available at the Jefferson County Public Health clinic. Most insurance plans including Medicaid cover Hepatitis C testing. Anybody who has one or more of the following risk factors may qualify for a test at no cost at the clinic:
- Born between 1945 to 1965
- Personal history of injection drug use
- Sexual partners who have used injection drugs or are infected with Hepatitis C
- Hemodialysis, blood transfusions, or organ transplant before 1992 or outside the U.S at any time
- Tattoos or piercings in an unprofessional environment (home, prison or jail, or unlicensed facility)
Please call the clinic at 303-239-7078 to schedule an appointment to be tested or to speak with a nurse to get more information about testing.
For more information about Hepatitis C, please view the following resources: