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Different Hepatitis Viruses: DEFINITIONS

HEPATITIS A The hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a common
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver cause of hepatitis that is transmitted
caused by a virus, the hepatitis A virus via the intestinal tract, and is not
(HAV). It varies in severity, running an caused by the hepatitis A virus. Spread
acute course, generally starting within two most often by contaminated drinking
to six weeks after contact with the virus, water, HEV infection occurs mainly in
and lasting no longer than two or three developing countries.
months. HAV may occur in single cases
after contact with an infected relative or HEPATITIS G
sex partner. Alternately, epidemics may Hepatitis G is a newly discovered form
develop when food or drinking water is of liver inflammation caused by hepatitis
contaminated by the feces of an G virus (HGV), a distant relative of the
infected person. hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis B is a potentially serious form of AUTOIMMUNE HEPATITIS
inflammation due to infection by the A form of liver inflammation in which the
hepatitis B virus (HBV). It occurs in both bodys immune system attacks liver
rapidly developing (acute) and long-
cells. Although the cause of autoimmune
lasting (chronic) forms, and is one of the
hepatitis isn't entirely clear, some
commonest chronic infectious diseases
worldwide. An effective vaccine is diseases, toxins and drugs may trigger
available which will prevent the disease in autoimmune hepatitis in susceptible
those who are later exposed. people, especially women.

HEPATITIS C Untreated autoimmune hepatitis can lead

Hepatitis C is a form of liver inflammation to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and
that causes primarily a long-lasting eventually to liver failure. When diagnosed
(chronic) disease. Acute (newly and treated early, however, autoimmune
developed) hepatitis C is rarely observed
hepatitis often can be controlled with
as the early disease is generally quite
drugs that suppress the immune system.
mild. Spread mainly by contact with
infected blood, the hepatitis C virus (HCV)
causes most cases of viral liver infection A liver transplant may be an option
not due to the A and B hepatitis viruses. In when autoimmune hepatitis doesn't
fact, before other viral types were found, respond to drug treatments or when liver
hepatitis C was referred to as non-A, disease is advanced.
non-B hepatitis. It is not a new
infection, just newly diagnosable and has
been widely present in the U.S. population
Hepatitis: frequently asked
for decades.
HEPATITIS D What is World Hepatitis Day?
Hepatitis D (or delta, the Greek letter
D), is a form of liver inflammation that At its 2010 meeting, the World Health
occurs only in patients who also are Assembly resolved that July 28 should
infected by the hepatitis B virus. be designated as World Hepatitis Day.
Infection by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity
either occurs at the same time as for education and greater understanding
hepatitis B develops, or develops of viral hepatitis as a global public
later when infection by hepatitis B virus health problem, and to stimulate the
(HBV) has entered the chronic stage. strengthening of preventive and control
measures of this disease by nations one in twelve live with chronic HBV or
around the world. HCV infection. While most people who
have been infected with these viruses
Why is it needed? are unaware of their infection, they face
the possibility of developing debilitating
Hepatitis is one of the most prevalent
or fatal liver disease at some point in
and serious infectious conditions in the
their lives and unknowingly transmitting
world, but many people - including
the infection to others.
health policy makers - remain unaware
HBV/HIV and HCV/HIV coinfections are
of its staggering toll on global health.
an increasing problem in countries with
HIV epidemics and among injecting drug
What is hepatitis?
users. For co-infected persons being
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, treated with HIV antiretroviral
most commonly caused by a viral medicines, underlying viral hepatitis is
infection. There are five main hepatitis becoming a major cause of death.
viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D What are the different hepatitis
and E. These five types are of viruses?
greatest concern because of the
Scientists have identified five unique
burden of illness and death they
hepatitis viruses, identified by the
cause and the potential for
letters A, B, C, D, and E. While all cause
outbreaks and epidemic spread. In
liver disease, they vary in important
particular, types B and C lead to chronic
disease in hundreds of millions of
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in
people and, together, are the most
the faeces of infected persons and is
common cause of liver cirrhosis and
most often transmitted through
consumption of contaminated water or
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused
food. Certain sex practices can also
by ingestion of contaminated food or
spread HAV. Infections are in many
water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur
cases mild, with most people making a
as a result of parenteral contact with
full recovery and remaining immune
infected body fluids. Common modes of
from further HAV infections. However,
transmission for these viruses include
HAV infections can also be severe and
receipt of contaminated blood or blood
life threatening. Most people in areas of
products, invasive medical procedures
the world with poor sanitation have
using contaminated equipment and for
been infected with this virus. Safe and
hepatitis B transmission from mother to
effective vaccines are available to
baby at birth, from family member to
prevent HAV.
child, and also by sexual contact.
Acute infection may occur with limited
or no symptoms, or may include Why is it important for people to
symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing know if they are infected with a
of the skin and eyes), dark urine, form of viral hepatitis?
extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and
Early diagnosis provides the best
abdominal pain.
opportunity for effective medical
What makes hepatitis a global
support. It also allows those infected to
health problem?
take steps to prevent transmission of
About 1 million deaths per year are the disease to others, for example by
attributed to viral hepatitis infections. adopting safe sex practices. It allows
Together, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and lifestyle precautions to be undertaken to
hepatitis C (HCV) are the leading cause protect the liver from additional harm,
of liver cancer in the world, accounting specifically, by eliminating alcohol and
for 78 percent of cases. certain drugs which are toxic to the
Nearly one out of every three people in liver.
the world (approximately 2 billion
people) has been infected by HBV, and
How can viral hepatitis be
prevented? What is
Safe and effective vaccines are
doing to
widely available for the prevention of support
HAV and HBV infection.
the fight
Screening blood used for against
transfusion can prevent transmission of viral
HBV and HCV. hepatitis?
Sterile injection equipment
protects against HBV and HCV WHO has
transmission. worked
closely with
Safer sex practices, including
minimizing the number of partners and
States to
using barrier (condom) protective
measures has been shown to protect
some very
against HBV and HCV transmission.
Harm reduction for injection drug
users prevents HBV and HCV achievements in hepatitis prevention. In
transmission. 2009, over 91% of Member States now
Safe food and water provide the include the hepatitis B vaccine in their
best protections against HAV and HEV. infant immunization programs and over
70% of infants received 3 doses of this
How is viral hepatitis treated? vaccine which provides them with life-
Antiviral agents active against HBV long protection from this one virus.
exist. Treatment of HBV infection has WHO is assisting countries in ensuring
been shown to reduce the risk of liver the safety, availability, and quality of
cancer and death. It is estimated that blood and blood products.
2030% of persons with HBV infection Policy guidance and guidelines on best
could benefit from treatment. However, practices are available for all injections
drugs active against HBV are not widely including phlebotomy and lancet
available or utilized in persons infected procedures. They enable countries to
with HBV. Currently recommended establish safe injection and phlebotomy
antiviral agents used for treatment of services, train health care workers on
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) best injection and phlebotomy practices
infection do not adequately suppress and ensure that patients and health
HBV, which is of great concern for the workers are safe when receiving or
estimated 10% of the HIV-infected giving an injection or a phlebotomy.
persons in Africa who are co-infected More needs to be done to prevent and
with HBV. control viral hepatitis. We must ensure
HCV is generally considered to be a that those already infected with viral
curable disease but for many persons hepatitis have timely access to testing,
this is not a reality. Scientific advances care and effective treatments to delay
and intense research and development development of disease and prevent
have led to the development of many disability.
new oral antiviral drugs for HCV WHO is working in the following areas:
infection. A great number of HCV raising awareness, promoting
specific oral drugs are in the late stage partnerships and mobilizing resources
of development; some have been evidence-based policy and data
recently registered. These are more for action
effective and better tolerated. Much still prevention of transmission
needs to be done to ensure that these screening, care and treatment.
new treatment advances lead to greater To accomplish this mandate, WHO will
access and treatment responses in take a health systems approach,
resource constrained areas of the world.
including developing new approaches at
WHO and mobilizing much needed FUNCTION OF THE LIVER
WHO will work in close collaboration
with all our partners to prevent and
control viral hepatitis.