Hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver. It can be caused by heavy alcohol use, exposure to toxins and certain medicines, or other health conditions, but most cases are caused by a group of viruses, the CDC explains. These viruses can be spread via contaminated food and water, human waste, or the blood and bodily fluids of infected people.
Sometimes viral hepatitis goes away on its own. But for some people, hepatitis becomes a chronic infection that can lead to serious problems, including permanent liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and in some cases, death, according to the CDC.
Hepatitis can have signs like fever, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, belly pain, dark urine, and jaundice, but many people with hepatitis don’t have symptoms and don’t know they’re infected, the CDC adds.
In the US, the most common types of viral hepatitis are A, B, and C, which are each caused by different viruses. The CDC has a handy, extensive chart that explains who’s at risk for the diseases, what treatments are available, who should be tested, and who should get vaccinated — there are vaccines that protect against hepatitis A and B.
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