The hepatitis A, B and C viruses affect the liver and can lead to serious complications. Many people do not have symptoms after they have been infected with one of these viruses until liver problems arise. Discovering whether one or more of these viruses is present in the body through a hepatitis panel offers peace of mind and treatment options, especially in cases involving long term or chronic disease.
What Are Hepatitis A, B and C?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is transmitted from one person to another through infected stool. Food or water that has been contaminated with the infection spreads the infection when ingested by a person. Poor hygiene and sanitation can contribute to the spread of the virus.
The virus that causes hepatitis A leads to inflammation in the liver of an infected person. The effects of this virus are typically short term in nature, but some people may experience long term health problems related to hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is a virus that is transmitted through bodily fluids. Sexual contact, sharing needles and sharing other personal hygiene items with a person who has the virus are all ways that hepatitis B can be spread. Women can also pass the virus to a fetus during pregnancy.
The hepatitis B virus can be short or long term. Chronic hepatitis B affects liver function, and young children are most likely to contract the lasting type of the virus.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. It is a virus that attacks the liver and can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. The virus is most often spread through the sharing of needles. Unlike hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C is more frequently a long term illness. Some people have acute hepatitis C, but most people will live with it for the rest of their lives.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A, B and C
Hepatitis A often presents no symptoms in an infected person. Children are more likely to experience no symptoms of the virus. Mild symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, diarrhea, nausea and jaundice. While serious complications including liver failure are possible, most people who contract the virus do not have lasting effects.
Hepatitis B may not cause symptoms in an infected person. Many people are unaware that they have the virus because they either have no symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms. Symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, stomachache, jaundice and problems with digestion. Since hepatitis B affects liver function, some people with the virus develop liver cancer or cirrhosis. However, serious complications are rare.
Hepatitis C usually causes no symptoms when a person is first infected, but symptoms tend to develop over time. Common symptoms include muscle weakness, joint pain, extreme fatigue, jaundice, itchiness and dark urine. Because symptoms are either not present or very mild, many people do not discover that they have hepatitis C until they experience serious complications involving the liver.
The Prevalence of Hepatitis A, B and C
Hepatitis A affects up to 34 percent of the population at some point in their lives, but the virus is not long term. There are over 40,000 new cases of the virus reported each year.
Hepatitis B is much less common than hepatitis A, and only about 5.5 percent of the population has ever been infected with the virus. There are over 50,000 new cases of hepatitis B each year. Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. are living with chronic hepatitis B. Three thousand liver-related deaths can be connected to hepatitis B each year.
Hepatitis C is the least prevalent of the liver-related viruses. Only about 1.9 percent of people in the U.S. will ever be infected with this virus. There are approximately three million people living with chronic hepatitis C, and over 20,000 new cases of the virus are reported each year. Twelve thousand liver-related deaths can be connected to hepatitis C each year.
Benefits of Ordering a Test for Hepatitis A, B and C
The Hepatitis A, B & C panel is beneficial for anyone who may be experiencing symptoms of any type of hepatitis. This inclusive panel tests for antibodies and antigens associated with all three types of hepatitis.
People who have been exposed to any type of hepatitis may also opt for the panel to determine whether they have been infected. Since hepatitis A, B and C can be acute or long term, it is recommended that a person who has a positive result for one type of the virus be retested for that specific virus at a later date.