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Comparing hepatitis A, B and C

Posted 17 September, 2020
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Comparing hepatitis A, B and C

Hepatitis A (hep A, HAV)

What is it?

  • A virus that causes inflammation of the liver
  • Only acute infection (short term)

How long is the incubation period? (Time of exposure to onset of symptoms)

  • Between 15 and 50 days
  • Average 30 days

How long is the window period? (Time of exposure until antibodies can be detected)

  • Hard to define due to length of infection

How is it transmitted?

  • By faecal-oral contact (poo-to-mouth)

What behaviours place people at risk?

  • Eating food prepared by a person with hep A who hasn’t washed their hands
  • Intimate sexual contact with a person with hep A (e.g. oral/anal sex)
  • Travel to developing countries
  • Drinking water infected with hep A

Is there a vaccine?

  • Yes – 2 injections over 6 months

What are the symptoms in acute (short term) infection?

  • Adults may have light coloured faeces, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort and loss of appetite
  • Some people, especially young children, may have no symptoms

What are the symptoms in chronic infection?

  • NONE
  • Hep A is only an acute (short term) infection

What treatment is available?

  • Not necessary
  • Some people may require hospitalisation if symptoms are severe enough

What are methods of prevention?

  • Vaccination
  • Immunoglobulin within two weeks of exposure
  • Washing hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, and before eating or handling food
  • If travelling to developing countries, consider vaccination and seek advice on food and water risks

Hepatitis B (hep B, HBV)

What is it?

  • A virus that causes inflammation of the liver
  • Chronic in around 5% of adults
  • Chronic for around 90-95% of newborns who contract hep B at birth
  • Can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer

How long is the incubation period? (Time of exposure to onset of symptoms)

  • Between 30 and 180 days
  • Average 30 days

How long is the window period? (Time of exposure until antibodies can be detected)

  • Between 3 and 6 months

How is it transmitted?

  • Blood-to-blood contact
  • Sexual contact
  • From a hep B positive mother to newborn baby (vertical transmission)

What behaviours place people at risk?

  • Sexual contact with a person who has hep B
  • Use of unsterile equipment when injecting drugs
  • Use of unsterile tattooing or body piercing equipment
  • People born in countries with high hep B prevalence

Is there a vaccine?

  • Yes – 3 injections over 6 months for adults (4 injections for children – part of childhood vaccinations)

What are the symptoms in acute (short term) infection?

  • Adults may have light coloured faeces, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort and loss of appetite
  • Most people have some symptoms

What are the symptoms in chronic infection?

  • Fatigue, nausea, muscle aches and pains, abdominal discomfort and jaundice

What treatment is available?

  • Pegylated interferon
  • Anti-viral medication (entecavir, tenofovir or lamivudine)
  • Some people choose to use complementary therapies for symptoms

What are methods of prevention?

  • Vaccination
  • Immunoglobulin within 72 hours of exposure
  • Avoid blood-to-blood contact
  • Do not re-use or share any injecting equipment
  • Practice safe sex
  • Avoid sharing personal items (e.g. razor and toothbrushes)
  • Follow standard infection control precautions for first aid
  • Seek medical advice for accidental exposure

Hepatitis C (hep C, HCV)

What is it?

  • A virus that causes inflammation of the liver
  • Chronic for around 75% of people
  • Can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer

How long is the incubation period? (Time of exposure to onset of symptoms)

  • Between 6 to 10 weeks

How long is the window period? (Time of exposure until antibodies can be detected)

  • Between 3 and 6 months

How is it transmitted?

  • Blood-to-blood contact
  • From a hep C positive mother to newborn baby (vertical transmission – rare)

What behaviours place people at risk?

  • Use of unsterile equipment when injecting drugs
  • Use of unsterile tattooing or body piercing equipment
  • Receiving blood products (prior to 1990 in Australia)
  • People born in countries with high prevalence

Is there a vaccine?

  • No available vaccine

What are the symptoms in acute (short term) infection?

  • Adults may have light coloured faeces, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort and loss of appetite
  • People may have a range of symptoms, these are usually mild

What are the symptoms in chronic infection?

  • Fatigue, nausea, muscle aches and pains, abdominal discomfort and mood swings

What treatment is available?

  • Treatment can cure HCV
  • Direct acting antiviral (DAA) tablets, no injections
  • 95% of people cured
  • Tablets taken daily for 8-12 weeks
  • Little to no side effects

What are methods of prevention?

  • Avoid blood-to-blood contact
  • Do not re-use or share any injecting equipment
  • Avoid sharing personal grooming items (e.g. razor and toothbrushes)
  • Follow standard infection control precautions for first aid
  • Seek medical advice for accidental exposure

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