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What causes hepatitis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of five hepatitis viruses. The HBV is transmitted through body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions) and infected blood. The most common cause of hepatitis B infections, including acute hepatitis B, include:

  • Sexual contact with infected fluids and blood
  • Infection from mother to child during birth
  • Shared needles, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who's infected
  • Accidental pricks with needles or other instruments tainted with infected blood

Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted in fluid expelled during sneezing or coughing. HBV cannot be contracted from sharing food or eating utensils, kissing, hugging, or breastfeeding. Although most cases of hepatitis B are acute, infants have a higher rate of chronic infection.

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C (HCV) is transmitted through blood. The most common routes of transmission of chronic hepatitis C infection are through:

  • Sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes
  • Accidental pricks with needles or other instruments contaminated with infected blood
  • Having contact with an infected person's blood or open sores
  • Receiving tattoos with contaminated needles

Sex with an infected partner can also lead to infection, though this is uncommon, especially for monogamous couples. It's also possible, but rare, for mothers with hepatitis C to infect their newborn during childbirth.

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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.