- Many illnesses and conditions can cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), but certain viruses cause about half of all hepatitis in people.
- Viruses that primarily attack the liver are called hepatitis viruses. There are several types of hepatitis viruses including types A, B, C, D, E, and possibly G. Types A, B, and C are the most common.
- All hepatitis viruses can cause acute hepatitis.
- Viral hepatitis types B and C can cause chronic hepatitis.
- Symptoms of acute viral hepatitis include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, dark urine, light-colored stools, fever, and jaundice; however, acute viral hepatitis may occur with minimal symptoms that go unrecognized. Rarely, acute viral hepatitis causes fulminant hepatic failure.
- The symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis often are mild and nonspecific, and the diagnosis of chronic hepatitis often is delayed.
- Chronic viral hepatitis often requires treatment in order to prevent progressive liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Hepatitis infections and related illnesses can be prevented by avoiding exposure to viruses, and through injectable immunoglobulins, or by vaccines; however, vaccines are available for only hepatitis A and B.
- Those at risk for viral hepatitis B and C include workers in the health care profession, people with multiple sexual partners, intravenous drug abusers, and people with hemophilia. Blood transfusion is a rare cause of viral hepatitis.