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Is acute hepatitis life-threatening?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Hepatitis B
It is possible for hepatitis B infection to be fatal, but it's extremely uncommon, especially in adults.Almost all cases of acute hepatitis B are not life-threatening. Less than 1 percent of acute hepatitis B cases develop liver failure. Most people recover completely within four to six months and without medical treatment. Children who are infected are most at risk of developing chronic hepatitis B (the younger they are the higher the risk-; 90 percent of infected infants will develop chronic infection). In adults, less than 5 percent of those with acute infection will develop chronic infection, and of those who do, 70-80 percent will not develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer from it.

Hepatitis C
In almost all cases, acute hepatitis C is not life threatening and the risk of liver damage is low. However, 75-80 percent of people with acute hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C can lead to life-threatening liver damage or cancer without treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.