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Viral hepatitis is an infection that causes liver inflammation and damage. Several different viruses cause hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The hepatitis A and E viruses typically cause acute infections. The hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can cause acute and chronic infections.
Hepatitis A causes only acute infection and typically gets better without treatment after a few weeks. The hepatitis A virus spreads through contact with an infected person’s stool. You can protect yourself by getting the hepatitis A vaccine.
Hepatitis B can cause acute or chronic infection. Your doctor may recommend screening you for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or have a high chance of being infected. You can protect yourself from hepatitis B by getting the hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis C can cause acute or chronic infection. Your doctor may recommend screening you for hepatitis C if you have a high chance of being infected or were born between 1945 and 1965. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent liver damage.
The hepatitis D virus is unusual because it can only infect you when you also have a hepatitis B virus infection. A coinfection occurs when you get both hepatitis D and hepatitis B infections at the same time. A superinfection occurs if you already have chronic hepatitis B and then become infected with hepatitis D.
Hepatitis E is typically an acute infection that gets better without treatment after several weeks. Some types of hepatitis E virus are spread by drinking water contaminated by an infected person’s stool. Other types are spread by eating undercooked pork or wild game.
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See more about liver disease at NIDDK.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Raymond Chung, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital; Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, M.D., Saint Louis University School of Medicine; Paul Martin, M.D., University of Miami Miller School of Medicine