There are six known types of the virus: A, B, C, D, E and G. The A and B variations had been the ones to watch, but with vaccines for both and physicians treating them, that has declined.
Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common occurring. The differences between the virus are in the severity of the infection and the subsequent damage to the body, especially the liver.
The highly infectious hepatitis A only causes an acute self-contained infection, meaning people have an illness and they get over it. Most commonly transmitted through contaminated food and water, the symptoms are similar to an intestinal flu.
Those infected with hepatitis B develop an acute illness. About 90 percent to 95 percent of the people get over it and don't any long term effects, but 5 percent to 8 percent develop chronic hepatitis B and cirrhosis, liver damage. The virus is mostly commonly transmitted through blood, and it can be passed on through sexual contact but not as effectively.
Also passed along through exposure to contaminated blood, hepatitis C is more dangerous. 90 percent develop chronic hepatitis and up to 50 percent of those go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver, which develops over a 10- to 30-year time frame.
Children are routinely given a hepatitis B vaccine and the hepatitis A vaccine is given to travelers to third world countries and others considered at risk.
A family doctor or a liver specialist can order the blood screening test for the virus. Also the American Red Cross routinely screen blood donors.
Source: Mayo Clinic Family Health Book
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