Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It is thought to be the most common cause of chronic Hepatitis and affects about 1% of the Australian community.
People commonly acquire Hepatitis C by blood to infected blood contact. This can happen through the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes and other un-sterile injecting drug equipment. Also, poorly sterilised medical equipment, needlestick injuries in healthcare and it may also spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth. Some people contracted Hepatitis C through an infected blood transfusion or blood products before they were effectively screened in the 1990s.
Chronic Hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a peron's body. Although some people clear the virus from their bodies in a few months, many Hepatitis C infections are chronic and can last a lifetime. Without treatment, chronic Hepatitis C can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and cancer. Find out more here
Hepatitis A is an acute infectious disease of the liver caused by a virus, known as the Hepatitis A virus.
The virus is spread when it enters the mouth, which can happen when your hands, food or other items are contaminated with the faeces of a person who is infected with the Hepatitis A virus.
The disease can also spread sexaully by oral or anal contact.
Children under five years of age often don't show symptoms. Older children and adults can develop flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and even a yellowing of the skin.
A person with Hepatitis A is infectious from two weeks before they show symptoms to one week after.
Patients with Hepatitis A usually get better in a few weeks without requiring treatment.Having a Hepatitis A infection provides lifelong immunity against Hepatitis A only.
Immunisation is the best protection against Hepatitis A. The regime includes a course of injections over six to 12 months and is a good idea for people travelling to places where the disease is common, or to places where hygiene standards are poor.
The vaccine may also be recommended for people with pre-exsisting liver problems or those that have had a liver transplant, chronic sufferers of Hepatitis B or C, childcare workers,food handlers and people who inject illegal drugs or men who have sex with men.
Hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in the world and is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. This viral infection can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer or liver failure if it is not diagnosed and managed. A small proportion of people who become infected with the Hepatitis B virus develop a long-term or chronic infection.
The most common ways Hepatitis B is spread include sharing of unsterile injecting or piercing equipment and unsafe sex or other activities where blood or body fluids are exchanged. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby. In about 30% of cases the cause is unknown.
Hepatitis B is NOT spread by contaminated food or water, and cannot be spread through casual or social contact such as kissing, sneezing or coughing.
Acute Hepatitis B infections do not usually require treatment because most adults clear the infection spontaneously. Some may carry the virus without showing any symptoms or even knowing they have it.
For the small proportion who develop a chronic infection, treatment with antiviral medication may be necessary to prevent serious illness or death.
Infected adults or older children that stage a full recovery will develop protective immunity to the virus.
The infection has been preventable by vaccination since 1982 and is recommended in the first day of life if possible. Two or three more doses are required at a later time for full effect.The vaccines works about 95% of the time.