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Hepatitis Basics

This section connects you to basic information from CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis. CDC offers information on hepatitis for both healthcare providers and the public, some of which is excerpted here. For more information, click the provided CDC links.

FAQs for Health Professionals

FAQs for the Public

CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis provides answers to questions about viral hepatitis. We list some of the most common questions and answers. Find more questions and answers on the CDC Web site.

What is hepatitis?

“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C?

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Other Hepatitis Types

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus. It is uncommon in the United States, and only occurs among people who are infected with the hepatitis B virus. The transmission of hepatitis D is similar to how hepatitis B is spread and requires contact with infectious blood. There is no vaccine for hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus. While rare in the United States, hepatitis E is common in many parts of the world. Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A, in that it is spread in similar ways and usually results in an acute infection. It is transmitted from ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, and is usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for hepatitis E.

Last Updated: 
10/15/14