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What Is Viral Hepatitis?


Liver Disease Videos

  • What Is Viral Hepatitis?

    What is viral hepatitis and how is it spread? Learn the measures you can take to prevent this condition.

  • Hepatitis And A Fatty Liver

    Do you know whether or not you have a fatty liver? Dr Mark Wright explains all about non-alcoholic hepatitis and how to prevent it.

  • Alcohol And The Liver

    How many units should you drink a week? Dr Mark Wright answers your questions and explains the risks alcohol creates for your liver.


Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, so there are lots of different causes. Inflammation of the liver is caused from an infectious virus. The virus is a very small particle, much smaller than a bacterium, which can infect you in many different ways. The common types of hepatitides are called, fairly unimaginatively, A, B, C and D.

How can you catch this?

Hepatitides A and E can be caught through dirty water and poor food handling with infected food. It is spread through the faecal-oral route, where you acquire the virus by the mouth and spread it through faeces. You can avoid these virus types by enforcing good hand hygiene and cooking things properly.

These forms are probably the most acute hepatitides. What we mean by chronic viral-hepatitis is when you have had something for more than six months, in which case we are talking about hepatitides B and C. You tend to catch these types by blood-to-blood and bodily fluid transference. The most common ways of catching hepatitis-B is sexually or from the time spent in your mother’s womb. This is probably the way it is caught most widely in the world.

With hepatitis-C transmission occurs through blood-to-blood contact, so the most common way now, in this country, is through intravenous drug use. In the past it has been caused by blood transfusions before we knew about the virus. On the other hand, it is still caught in other parts of the world through unsafe injection techniques. It can also be acquired sexually, although this is less common. The other way you can get hepatitis-C is through household contacts. Sharing razor blades and toothbrushes can be dangerous so if you’ve got hepatitis be careful when sharing a house with people who haven’t got it.

How can it be prevented?

To avoid hepatitis B and C you need to avoid other people’s blood and bodily fluids. In terms of sex, using condoms is the best ways to prevent transmission. General hygiene measures can also help stop transmission, for example, not using someone else’s razors or toothbrushes. This also includes people that take cocaine and who share notes or straws to snort the cocaine up. If you imagine that someone has a nosebleed or a bit of a sore nose, then their bodily fluids can get on the note and you can snort it up your own nose. Tattooing is another potential way that you can get hepatitis-C. Hopefully most places in the UK are savvy of the fact that sharing needles is a way of spreading this type of hepatitides.

If you have got a type of viral hepatitides then please be careful to avoid infecting other people. So if you’ve got a cut and you’re bleeding then make sure you cover it and clean it up yourself. If you have an accident then make sure you tell other people so that they can take the appropriate precautions to avoid catching it themselves.

Dr Mark Wright

Consultant Hepatologlist

10880 Published January 2013

Review Scheduled January 2014

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