Hepatitis: Are You Protected?

hepatitis, physician, patient | Doylestown Health

You’ve probably heard about hepatitis in the news lately. That’s because widespread hepatitis outbreaks are happening at an increased rate across the country, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And with multiple types of hepatitis circulating, it can be difficult to keep track of and understand. Read on to learn what you need to stay protected.

What Is Hepatitis?

In its simplest terms, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The reason for the inflammation is commonly due to a virus but not always. Some forms of hepatitis can develop as the result of an irritation from a medicine like Tylenol (drug-induced hepatitis) or can result from our own immune system attacking itself (autoimmune hepatitis), explains Dr. Hannah Do, gastroenterologist with Doylestown Health Gastroenterology.

But more often than not, viruses cause hepatitis and the most common viruses are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Sometimes people have no symptoms of hepatitis but when they do, they could include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stools
  • Joint pain 
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes/skin)

“Persons at the highest risk for developing symptoms tend to be older in life,” says Dr. Do. “If hepatitis B or hepatitis C isn’t treated, that person can develop cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver, and increase their risk for liver cancer.”

The Different Types

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage, according to the CDC information.

The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected and can be spread when someone ingests the virus, usually through eating contaminated food or drink or through close personal contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A is very contagious, and people can even spread the virus before they get symptoms.

You may remember early in 2022, a hepatitis A outbreak occurred at a Montgomery County pizzeria, where 10 people were infected and hospitalized and sadly, three of them died. The restaurant has since closed.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus, notes information from the CDC. Some people who become infected can go on to develop a chronic or lifelong infection. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious liver damage and even liver cancer. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but treatments are available that can delay or reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected or has not been vaccinated. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for more than half of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. This infection can lead to liver disease and liver cancer.

Rates of new infections have been on the rise, particularly among young adults, which coincides with the recent increase in injection drug use related to the opioid crisis, notes the CDC information. While less common, hepatitis C can also spread through health care exposures, sex with an infected person, birth from an infected mother, and tattoos and body piercings from unlicensed facilities or informal settings.


Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Hepatitis A vaccines can be given to babies 12 months and older, as well as any time in life if needed or if at high risk.

Hepatitis B vaccines have been routinely given to babies at birth since 1991 as well as to anyone at high risk. But as of April 2022, CDC recommends that everyone who has not been vaccinated from birth through age 59, receive the hepatitis B vaccine. People 60 and older with risk factors for hepatitis B should also receive vaccine. People who are 60 and older without risk factors may also receive the hepatitis B vaccine.

Screening and Treatment

All Doylestown Health gastroenterologists care for patients with all types of hepatitis, explains Dr. Do. The other good news, she adds, current blood screening tests can detect all types of hepatitis. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that all adults age 18-79 be screened for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime.

And while hepatitis A and B don’t have a specific treatment to eliminate the virus (the virus typically goes away after a few weeks to months but symptoms can be treated to try to prevent permanent liver damage), there are curative treatments for hepatitis C.

“Hepatitis C treatments have come a long way from harsh injections that made people really sick... Right now, it is a highly treatable infection with oral antiviral therapies that patients can take anywhere from eight weeks to 12 weeks,” Dr. Do says. “And they generally have cure rates higher than 90 percent.”

  • To meet with one of our Doylestown Health Gastroenterology physicians, call 215.345.6050.

About Gastroenterology

Our caring, compassionate gastroenterologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the digestive system. Using advanced screening tools, state-of-the-art treatments and innovative technology, our gastroenterology team delivers comprehensive care for conditions of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. The Open Access Colonoscopy Program allows healthy patients the convenience of scheduling a screening colonoscopy without an initial office visit.

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