It’s estimated that over 3.2 million Americans are living with hepatitis, with more than half of them not knowing they have it—putting themselves and others in danger.
However, it’s not just a problem in the U.S. Hepatitis affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe. While worldwide deaths from tuberculosis and HIV are declining, deaths from hepatitis continue to rise. According to the World Health Organization, someone loses their life to hepatitis B or hepatitis C every 30 seconds, every day.
Keep reading to learn the causes of hepatitis, the most common types of hepatitis, and the symptoms of hepatitis to watch for.
Hepatitis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the liver, a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters your blood, and fights infections. When your liver is inflamed or damaged, it has a harder time working properly. Left untreated, hepatitis can cause you to develop chronic liver disease, liver cancer, or liver failure.
Many people with hepatitis do not have any symptoms, making it even harder to detect the virus. The CDC confirms that some hepatitis symptoms can take decades to develop.
If hepatitis symptoms do occur, they may include:
Because these symptoms can indicate so many other conditions, the hepatitis vaccines and testing provided by vybe clinics are even more critical.
There are many causes of hepatitis, including heavy alcohol use, genetic disorders, and even certain medications. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus.
In the United States, the most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Let’s explore the most common types of hepatitis one by one, including how they spread, how long they last, and how they are treated.
How it spreads: Hepatitis A is spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts. It happens more often than you think. As Popular Science so eloquently puts it, poop is everywhere!
Anyone can be exposed to surfaces, objects, food, or liquids contaminated by feces from an infected person – from touch screens and computer keyboards to store counters and shopping carts. Many of these transmissions occur when an infected person does not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.
How long it lasts: People who get hepatitis A may feel sick anywhere from a few weeks to several months, but they usually recover completely without lasting liver damage. However, hepatitis A can cause liver failure in elderly people or those with pre-existing health issues (such as chronic liver disease).
Who should be vaccinated: Hepatitis in children is a serious matter. Case in point: the World Health Organization is investigating a recent global outbreak of unexplained hepatitis infections in children.
The CDC recommends that all children between the ages of 12-23 months (and all children and adolescents under age 19 who have not been vaccinated) get a hepatitis A vaccine.
How it’s treated: There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Over time, your body will clear the virus on its own – but again, a vaccine is your best defense.
How it spreads: Hepatitis B is primarily spread when blood, semen, or other bodily fluids from an infected person (even in microscopic amounts) enter the body of another.
The hepatitis virus can be spread from mother to child during childbirth, through sexual intercourse, or even by sharing a razor or toothbrush with an infected person. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that nearly 70% of people infected with hepatitis B do not know they have it, putting countless others at risk.
How long it lasts: Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious, lifelong condition. Approximately 15-25% of infected people will develop chronic liver issues, such as liver disease or liver failure. Hepatitis B is also a leading cause of liver cancer.
Who should be vaccinated: To prevent hepatitis in children, the CDC recommends that all infants (and all children and adolescents under age 19 who have not been vaccinated) get a hepatitis B vaccine.
The hepatitis B vaccine plays an important role in preventing the severity of hepatitis in children as well. More than 90% of unimmunized infants infected with hepatitis B develop a chronic infection, compared to just 6-10% of older children and adults. Getting the vaccine at an early age is key.
Any high-risk individuals should also get a hepatitis B vaccine. This includes people who are sexually active with multiple partners (or with a partner who has hepatitis B) and people who are more likely to be exposed to bodily fluids (such as health care workers).
How it’s treated: There are no medications available for acute (or short-term) hepatitis B The treatment for acute Hepatitis B infection is mainly supportive. Less than 5% of these patients will go on to develop chronic (or long-term) hepatitis B and will need regular monitoring for signs of liver disease. Some are also treated with antiviral medications.
How it spreads: Hepatitis C is spread when the blood from an infected person – you guessed it, even in microscopic amounts – enters the body of another.
Similar to hepatitis B, the hepatitis C virus can be spread through childbirth, sexual intercourse, and sharing personal items (such as syringes and tattoo needles).
How long it lasts: Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer. More than 50% of people who get infected with the hepatitis C virus develop a chronic infection.
Who should be vaccinated: To date, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
How it’s treated: Current treatment for chronic hepatitis C includes 8-16 weeks of antiviral medications that attack the virus and help stop or slow down damage to the liver.
vybe makes it easy to protect yourself and others by offering a full range of vaccines, including the hepatitis B vaccine. All you have to do is visit a vybe center—just walk in or make an appointment whenever it’s convenient for you. If you’re experiencing hepatitis symptoms, visit your nearest vybe to be tested. If needed, we’ll refer you to a GI specialist for treatment.
At vybe, we believe that everyone deserves great health care. Find a vybe urgent care clinic near you today.