What You Need to Know About the Hepatitis A Outbreak

States across the country—particularly Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and California—are dealing with an outbreak of the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Public health officials are urging residents and travelers to take action to avoid contracting this serious illness. Read more on how to prevent a hepatitis A outbreak and the differences between each type of virus.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a medical term that refers to inflammation of the liver. While heavy alcohol use, toxins and some medications can cause hepatitis, the condition is most often caused by the hepatitis A, B and C viruses.

Is there a difference between the three viruses?

Each virus causes a different type of liver infection and can be transmitted in various ways.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. It most often spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the HAV from contaminated objects, drinks or food. It can also spread from close contact with an infected person.

Hepatitis A can range from being a mild illness lasting only a few weeks to a severe illness lasting months. In some cases, it can result in death.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get the HAV vaccine. Practicing good hygiene—like washing your hands after using the bathroom, and before preparing and eating food—can help also prevent the illness.

Hepatitis B

Similar to hepatitis A, hepatitis B is a contagious liver condition caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B can range from a mild illness to a serious lifelong or chronic condition. HBV is primarily spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.

There is a vaccine to protect against hepatitis B. In addition to getting vaccinated, avoid having unprotected sex or sharing personal items like toothbrushes and razors to prevent transmitting the HBV.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the United States. About 80 percent of those infected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) will develop a chronic infection, which varies from mild to severe liver damage.

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