What causes hepatitis?

Hepatitis A
The hepatitis A virus causes hepatitis A. This virus is usually spread by personal contact with someone that has the disease, or through contaminated food or water. People most likely to get the disease are those who visit countries with poor sanitation, those who take illegal drugs and those who have sex with someone or live with someone with an active hepatitis A infection.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which infects the liver causing it to become inflamed. Hepatitis B infection can be contracted through body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions) and blood infected with the hepatitis B virus. Common causes of hepatitis B infections include:

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

HBV cannot be contracted from being coughed or sneezed on, sharing food or eating utensils, kissing, hugging or breastfeeding.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Hepatitis B is a virus that can affect the liver. Hepatitis B (HBV) is the most common serious liver infection in the world. Worldwide, about 350 million people are chronic carriers of HBV, of whom, more than 620,000 die from liver-related disease each year. In the United States, hepatitis B is largely a disease of young adults aged 20-50 years. About 800,000 to 1.4 million Americans are chronic hepatitis B virus carriers, and the disease causes about 3,000 deaths each year.

Hepatitis B is transmitted from one person to another via blood or fluids contaminated with blood. Another important route of transmission is from an infected mother to a newborn child, which occurs during or shortly after birth. Transmission can occur via sharing dirty needles, accidental needle sticks, sexual contacts or blood transfusions.

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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.