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The ABCs of Hepatitis

Hepatitis C is an altogether different—and more dangerous—beast than its cousins, A and B.
    • HEPATITIS A (HAV), which spreads through contaminated food and water, is contracted by an estimated 125,000 to 200,000 Americans every year.  It can be debilitating for a month or so.  But for those who rest and abstain from alcohol for six months, it goes away.  Formerly called infectious hepatitis.
    • HEPATITIS B (HBV), which an estimated 140,000 to 320,000 Americans contract each year—mostly from sex or IV drug use—is more serious, but also treatable; in about nine out of ten adult cases, it runs its course in a few months.  About 10% of cases progress to chronic hepatitis.  Vaccines protect against both hepatitis A and B.  Formerly called serum hepatitis.
    • HEPATITIS C (HCV) mutates rapidly, making a vaccine especially hard to develop.  It's estimated that of the almost 4 million Americans thought to be infected with hepatitis C, 15 percent may develop cirrhosis over a period of 20 to 30 years and 5 percent may die from the consequences of long-term infection.  Previously known as non-A, non-B hepatitis.
    • HEPATITIS D (HDV), also called delta hepatitis, can only infect patients who already carry HBV.  Hepatitis D infection is rare in the United States.  It occurs primarily in recipients of multiple blood transfusions, including patients with hemophilia or undergoing renal dialysis, and among those who share contaminated needles.
    • HEPATITIS E (HEV), also referred to as enterically transmitted non-A, non-B hepatitis, is caused by a waterborne virus.  It occurs primarily in developing countries and rarely occurs in the United States.  Hepatitis E infection results in an acute infection much like hepatitis A.  It does not cause chronic infection.  It is spread by fecal contamination in water.
        Sources:
        * Redbook Magazine, May 1999
        * "Understanding Hepatitis, A Glossary of Terms," produced by Amgen®

      World Prevalence COMPARISON STATISTICS*

      • More than 372 million people are chronic carriers of Hepatitis B.
      • More than 334 million people are affected by HIV.
      • More than 177 million people carry Hepatitis C.