Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal–oral route or through consumption of contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A Symptoms
Most adults and older children with hepatitis A have symptoms that usually resolve within 2 months after infection; children aged less than 6 years usually do not have symptoms, or they have an unrecognized infection.
Signs and symptoms associated with hepatitis A can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
Hepatitis A Treatment & Prevention
Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Treatment for HAV infection might include rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids. Hospitalization might be required for more severe cases. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by being vaccinated.1
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is uninfected.
This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from the gestational parent to baby during pregnancy or at birth. For some persons, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness; for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection.
Hepatitis B Treatment & Prevention
Chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious health problems, including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. Treatments are available, but no cure exists for hepatitis B. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by being vaccinated. 2, 3
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is a bloodborne virus. Transmission can happen through sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; from the gestational parent to baby during pregnancy or at birth; or rarely through sexual contact.
Today, in the United States, most persons become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. 4
Hepatitis C Illness
For certain persons, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for more than half of persons who become infected with HCV, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection.5 Like chronic hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.
Hepatitis C Treatment & Prevention
Persons might not be aware of their infection because they do not have symptoms. Since late 2013, highly effective, well-tolerated curative treatment has been available for hepatitis C, but no vaccine for preventing hepatitis C is yet available 6. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs with non-sterile injection equipment.
Key facts about hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
|Characteristic||Hepatitis A||Hepatitis B||Hepatitis C|
|Main route(s) of transmission||Fecal-oral||Blood, sexual||Blood|
|Incubation period||15–50 days
(average: 28 days)
(average: 90 days)
(average range: 14–84 days)
|Symptoms of acute infection||Symptoms are similar and can include ≥1 of the following: jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine, clay-colored stool, diarrhea (hepatitis A only)|
|Treatment||Supportive care||Yes, not curative||Yes, curative|
- Nelson NP, Weng MK, Hofmeister MG, et al. Prevention of hepatitis A virus infection in the United States: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2020. MMWR Recomm Rep 2020;69(No. RR-5):1–38.
- Schillie S, Vellozzi C, Reingold A, et al. Prevention of hepatitis B virus infection in the United States: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR Recomm Rep 2018;67(No. RR-1):1–31.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hepatitis B questions and answers for health professionals. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2020.
- Zibbell JE, Asher AK, Patel RC, et al. Increases in acute hepatitis C virus infection related to a growing opioid epidemic and associated injection drug use, United States, 2004 to 2014. Am J Public Health 2018;108:175–81.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Notes from the field: hepatitis C virus infections among young adults—rural Wisconsin, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012;61:358.
- Seifert LL, Perumpail RB, Ahmed A. Update on hepatitis C: direct-acting antivirals. World J Hepatol 2015;7:2829–33.