Types of Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis is categorized according to disease type. Each type of viral hepatitis is different, they have different characteristics and are known by alphabetical names, hepatitis A, hepatitis B,C,D,E,F and G, TTV and S.E.N-V. In this article I look at two of the three most common forms of Hepatitis, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV)
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver due to the A type virus and is commonly known as infectious hepatitis. It is thought of as the least serious form of hepatitis as the person infected never goes on to experience the chronic form of the disease. People with this type of hepatitis generally make a full recovery. People with hepatitis A feel pretty awful, rather like experiencing a severe flu with jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by the accumulation of the yellow/brown color bile pigment 'bilirubin' in the blood). A small percentage of infected people, notably the elderly or those with pre-existing liver disease, are at risk of experiencing severe symptoms of acute hepatitis and may become so ill that they require a liver transplant. Hepatitis A will not lead on to liver cancer or cirrhosis. Vaccine is available and is advisable for certain groups of people, workers and when traveling to various countries around the world.
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
Of the adults who get the Hepatitis B virus, 95%, clear the virus and do not go on to have the chronic form of the disease. Some people have few or no symptoms so may not realize they have HBV or that they have had it. Many adults will clear the virus completely within 6 months and protective antibodies mean they will never have to worry about HBV again as they are immune. Of the 200,000 Americans who contract hepatitis B each year, 10,000 to 15,000 go on to develop a chronic form of the disease. Men are 6 times more likely than women to become chronic carriers of HBV. The reason for this is unclear. Chronic hepatitis is divided into 3 categories, healthy chronic carrier of hepatitis B, chronic infectious hepatitis B and chronic mutant hepatitis B.
Chronic Infectious Hepatitis B
In this type of hepatitis the person is highly infectious to others. They have very inflamed and damaged livers even when presenting with few or no symptoms. People with this type of hepatitis B are more likely to have a progressive disease leading to cirrhosis. Only 5% to 10% have a spontaneous remission, become non infectious to others and sustain no further or minimal liver damage, although sometimes reactivation of the virus occurs.
Healthy chronic carriers
Healthy chronic carriers are not infectious to others and although they may have a slightly higher risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer than the general population, they mostly live a normal life. The virus can become reactivated when their immune systems become suppressed, such as during treatment with immunosuppressant drugs for diseases like cancer, AIDS, with drugs such as steroids and sometimes during other severe illnesses.
Chronic Mutant Hepatitis B:
In this form the person has a mutant strain, a permanent alteration of the hepatitis B viruss genetic makeup. They have the potential to be infectious to others and it is thought to be more resistive to treatment than the other forms of the disease.
Information about chronic hepatitis B
Prognosis Hepatitis B
Those with a less favourable prognosis include
People with poor general health
People infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B
People infected with hepatitis C as well as hepatitis B
People who are diagnosed with advanced hepatitis when they come to the attention of doctors
People who continue to drink alcohol after a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis.
There is an increased risk of liver cancer.
Palmer, Mellisa. Hepatitis Liver Disease. What you need to know. New York: Avery Publishing Group, 2000.
CDC Center for Disease Control,
WHO World Health Organization