Understanding Hepatitis A, B & C

Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. There are several different types of hepatitis, two of which can be spread through contact with an infected person’s blood.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused when a person consumes food or water that is infected with the hepatitis A virus. This form of hepatitis is more prevalent in parts of the world that have poor sanitary conditions, such as developing countries. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not cause permanent liver inflammation and people with this type usually recover on their own.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be transmitted in several different ways which include unprotected sex with someone who is infected, direct contact with an infected person’s blood, contaminated tattoo needles and contaminated drug injection needles. Hepatitis B can also be passed from a mother to her child during childbirth. Many people recover from hepatitis B, but some remain infected throughout their lifetime, and although they may no longer have symptoms, they can still pass the virus on to others.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C, like type B, is transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood. Unlike type B, it is uncommon to become infected by hepatitis C through sexual contact. Some people with hepatitis C are able to fight the infection off on their own or with medication, but many eventually develop chronic hepatitis C which can lead to serious and long term health problems, including liver disease and liver failure.


  • Hepatitis A: Most people recover from hepatitis A without treatment. Recovery typically takes a matter of weeks, making treatment through medication unnecessary. Although there is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, there are vaccines available to prevent infection.
  • Hepatitis B: Like hepatitis A, there is a vaccine available to help prevent the contraction of hepatitis B. Those infected with hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral medications.
  • Hepatitis C: Acute and chronic hepatitis C are both treated by using antiviral drugs. Chronic hepatitis C needs to be treated throughout a person’s lifetime with antiviral drugs and in severe cases a liver transplant may be necessary. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, making it even more vital to take preventative measures.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works