liver disease Resources

What Is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis Vaccination

Hepatitis Vaccination

Hepatitis is an infection of your liver. While it’s not always thought of as a sexually-transmitted disease, it’s commonly passed to another person during sex. There are three different viruses that cause different types of hepatitis found in the United States: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E are not common in the U.S.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus, or HAV. It’s typically transmitted from oral contact with fecal matter, either through contact with another person or through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is classified as a sexually-transmitted disease, which is passed on during sexual activities such as anilingus, or rimming. Although Hepatitis A is highly contagious, you can get vaccinated to protect yourself against the disease. The antibodies that your immune system produces to protect you against Hepatitis A last for life and prevent you from getting reinfected with the disease. Vaccination is recommended for all children, and especially recommended for men who have sex with men, users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs, people with liver disease and people traveling to or working in countries with a high incidence of HAV.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus, or HBV. HBV  is transmitted through blood, semen or other bodily fluid, usually through sexual contact, sharing needles for drugs or from mother to baby at birth. When an infant contracts HBV, it usually leads to a chronic, long-term illness that can cause cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. When an adult contracts HBV, it’s typically a short-term illness, but a small number of adults also suffer from chronic HBV. You can get vaccinated to protect yourself from getting HBV.

Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C virus, or HCV, is transmitted through blood, usually by sharing needles used to inject drugs. Although it’s rare, HCV can be passed on through sexual contact. HCV is a serious disease that can cause severe health problems and even death. Most people who contract HCV suffer from the disease for the rest of their lives. There is no vaccine available to protect you from HCV. More than 75 percent of the people with HCV were born between 1945 and 1965. You can have HCV and not experience symptoms until the disease becomes very serious.

Hepatitis D and E

Two other forms of Hepatitis, Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E are not common in the United States. Hepatitis D only works in tandem with Hepatitis B, so a vaccination against Hepatitis B protects you from Hepatitis D. There is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis E, which is typically contracted through a contaminated water supply in a country with poor sanitation.

Anonymous Hepatitis Tests

You can get tested for all forms of Hepatitis. If you’re concerned about having your name reported to the state health department, follow the instructions in our free guide to anonymous STD testing to get an anonymous Hepatitis test. Hepatitis can be deadly, and the longer you wait to get tested, the more serious the effects of the disease might become.

For more information, visit the Viral Hepatitis subsite at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

View the following video for more information about Hepatitis C.


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