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Digestive Diseases and Hepatitis

How Does Someone Get or Spread Hepatitis?

The answer to that question depends on the form of hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

A person can get hepatitis A from eating food or drinking water carrying the virus. Infected food is usually a problem in developing nations where poor sanitation is common. However it is also seen in the U.S. with food that has been contaminated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B may be transmitted by:

  • Having sex with an infected person.
  • Sharing dirty needles.
  • Being in direct contact with infected blood.
  • Getting needle stick injuries.
  • Mother to unborn child.
  • Being in contact with an infected person's body fluids.

Hepatitis C

A person can get hepatitis C from:

  • Sharing dirty needles.
  • Being in direct contact with infected blood.
  • Getting needle stick injuries.
  • Having sex with an infected person (less common).

Blood products are currently tested for hepatitis B and C, so it's unlikely that a person will get hepatitis from receiving blood products. However, blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992 may have not been tested for hepatitis C. If you received a transfusion of blood products before this date, you may want to get tested for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis and Pregnancy

An infected mother can give hepatitis B to her child during or after birth if the newborn is not treated. All pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B. Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B need to receive treatment within 12 hours of birth. Hepatitis B can be completely eliminated by successful vaccination.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?

The most common symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Dark urine (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Stomach pain (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Yellow skin or eye whites (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Pale or clay-colored stool (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Low-grade fever (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Loss of appetite (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Fatigue (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Feeling sick to the stomach (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Lack of nutrition (Hepatitis A, B, C)
  • Aching joints (Hepatitis B)

If you have any, or a combination of these symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.

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