Viral Hepatitis

Topic Overview

Viral hepatitis is liver inflammation caused by infection with a virus.

The following viruses cause most cases of viral hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A virus (HAV)
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
  • Hepatitis D virus (HDV)
  • Hepatitis E virus (HEV)

A virus that causes hepatitis can be spread from one person to another. Hepatitis B, C, and D viruses are spread when an uninfected person comes in contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid (including menstrual blood) that is infected with one of these viruses. Hepatitis A and E viruses are spread by contaminated food and water or by coming in direct contact with contaminated stool (feces). Hepatitis E also might be spread by contact with an infected pig. Hepatitis E is very rare in developed countries. Hepatitis D only occurs along with hepatitis B.

In their early stages, these viruses are difficult to tell apart. But within several weeks after infection occurs, blood tests can show which of the viruses is the cause of hepatitis (with the exception of hepatitis E, for which a blood test is not widely available).

The following viruses are less common causes of hepatitis and can be diagnosed using blood tests:

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Last Revised August 30, 2012

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