Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, Hepa means liver and itis meaning inflammation. There are 5 types of viral hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. These 5 viruses are of greatest concern given the amount of people infected and the possibility for death caused by the viruses. Hepatitis B and C cause chronic illness in tens of millions of people worldwide and are the primary cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
In Ireland the main hepatitis viruses within the population are A, B and C. These viruses affect the liver in different ways and there is currently a vaccine for A and B but not C. There is now a cure for Hep C but there is no vaccine.
Below is a brief description for each hepatitis virus:
Hepatitis A (HAV)
The most common way to get Hep A is through contaminated food and water. It is usually found in human faeces/poo. It is also a sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly through anal sex or sharing sex toys with someone that has the virus. There is no treatment for Hep A most people will recover without any complications.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
The most common way to catch Hep B is through exposure to infected blood, semen or bodily fluids. Newborn babies can also be infected at birth from their mother if she has the virus. Other common ways to catch the virus are through injecting drug use, contaminated blood products and accidental needle stick injuries. There is currently very effective vaccines against the Hep B virus.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
The most common way to catch Hep C is through injecting drug use, receiving contaminated blood products and sharing snorting equipment. It can also be transmitted sexually but this is a low risk athough the risk seems to be higher for men who have sex with men.