Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver. The most common viruses that cause viral hepatitis are called hepatitis A, B, and C. Each of these viruses can be passed between people in different ways, some sexually. Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause chronic (long-term) inflammation of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer, and death. Hepatitis B is the most common cause of liver cancer in the world. Chronic hepatitis C is the leading cause for liver transplants.

There are vaccines to protect people from hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is not yet a vaccine for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A virus is passed sexually when viral particles from the stool (poop) of someone who is infected get into the mouth of another person. A person is most likely to spread the infection in the two weeks after they are exposed to it themselves but before symptoms show up. This means people can spread the virus without even knowing they have it. Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease that can last 3-6 months but rarely causes permanent liver damage.

There is a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis A. The vaccine is recommended for all children when they turn one year old, and unvaccinated adults who are at risk for getting Hepatitis A. This includes men who have sex with men, people experiencing homelessness, and people who use drugs. Hepatitis A vaccine is given as a two dose series. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus is passed sexually and non-sexually through blood. Hepatitis B can lead to serious liver damage so it is important to treat, even though there is no cure. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent hepatitis B.

There is a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine has been recommended in the United States for all children starting at birth since 1991. It is also recommended for all sexually active adults who have not previously received the vaccine. Hepatitis B vaccine is given as a three-dose series. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus is usually passed by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Many people don’t realize they are infected because they don’t have symptoms, although hepatitis C can cause long-term liver infection and health problems.

Effective vaccinations are available to protect you against hepatitis A and B. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect you against hepatitis C. San Francisco City Clinic offers hepatitis A and B shots for those who are eligible. Please call 628-217-6600 for further information.