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Hepatitis

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus is found in the blood of persons who have this disease and is spread by contact with infected blood.

What increases my risk for Hepatitis C infection?

  • Having a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Having been treated for clotting problems with a blood product made before 1987
  • Having ever been on long-term kidney dialysis
  • Having ever injected street drugs, even once many years ago
  • If you are a healthcare worker exposed to blood in the workplace through accidental needle stick injuries
  • A baby born to infected mothers
  • Hepatitis C can also be spread by sexual intercourse, but this does not occur very often.

Hepatitis C is not spread by:

  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses
  • Casual contact
  • Breastfeeding
  • Sneezing
  • Food or water
  • Coughing
  • Hugging or kissing

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.

Contamination of food (this can include frozen and undercooked food) by hepatitis A can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food or water is more likely to occur in countries where hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. In the United States, chlorination of water kills hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) routinely monitors natural bodies of water used for recreation for fecal contamination so there is no need for monitoring for hepatitis A virus specifically.

Who is at risk for hepatitis A?

Although anyone can get hepatitis A, in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk, such as:

  • People with direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Men who have sexual contact with men
  • People who use drugs, both injection and non-injection drugs
  • Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • People working with nonhuman primates

For more information on Hepatitis, click here.