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What is Viral Hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is categorized into A, B, C, D, and E. Each type is distinctive and has different transmission routes.


Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through consumption of food and water contaminated by feces. Although hepatitis A and E can lead to serious liver damage and even death, they do not cause chronic infection, liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. 


Hepatitis B,C and D are not transmitted by consumption of infected food or water.


Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted through birth, blood, and unprotected sex. In the endemic countries in Asia, mother to child transmission is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis B infection. The most common transmission route for hepatitis C is through blood, such as reusing or sharing needles and syringes and injecting drugs. Both hepatitis B and C infection can become chronic and may cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. 


There are safe and effective vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C. There is a new hepatitis E vaccine from China, but currently it is not recommended for routine use.


Hepatitis D is mainly transmitted by blood and unprotected sex. Note that Hepatitis D infection can only occur in patients who are already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D infection can become chronic and cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.  Preventing hepatitis B infection by vaccination would protect you from hepatitis D infection.

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