Hepatitis is a viral infection which affects the liver. There are many different strains of Hepatitis. Some infections will only last for a short period of time, whilst others can become chronic and lead to serious health problems. Here we explain the main differences between Hepatitis A, B and C, and why it is important to be tested for each.
Hepatitis A is usually passed through contaminated food and drink or contact with an infected person’s faeces. It is most common in countries with low levels of hygiene and poor sanitation. It is not typically considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but it can be passed through sexual intercourse.
Hepatitis B is most often transmitted through contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids. It can also be passed from mother to child during birth.
Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through sharing needles (drug use), inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment such as syringes, blood transfusion and sexual activity involving exposure to blood.
Hepatitis A: There is no specific treatment to clear the infection. Normally, a Hepatitis A infection will be cleared naturally by the body over a period of weeks or months. During this time, the infected person is likely to be mildly to severely ill.
Hepatitis B: There is no treatment for short-term (acute) cases of Hepatitis B. Adequate rest and nutritional balance is recommended. Long-term (chronic) infection can be treated with medication, in order to reduce any serious impact on the liver.
Hepatitis C: The body’s immune system can clear a new infection within six months in around 30% of cases. 70% of infections will become chronic, with 15-30% of infected people developing cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years. With effective treatment, Hepatitis C can be cured, but access to this treatment is limited.
Hepatitis A: does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal. After a full recovery, most people will have lifelong immunity.
Hepatitis B: In rare cases, acute Hepatitis B can lead to liver failure. A chronic infection can develop into cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
Hepatitis C: A chronic Hepatitis C infection can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Early diagnosis can help to lessen the severity of health consequences and lowers the risk of transmitting the virus.
If you have a particular concern about Hepatitis, the Better2Know Hepatitis Screen can help to relieve your worries, testing for types A, B and C. We can also test you for Hepatitis B and C amongst other STIs in many other comprehensive screens. Our sexual health advisors can provide you with any further information you need.
 WHO: Hepatitis A – Key facts
 WHO: Hepatitis B – Key facts
 WHO: Hepatitis C – Key facts