Hepatitis, the disease, is most commonly caused by a viral infection, but can also be caused by toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use and bacterial infections. In common discourse, “Hepatitis” is often used to refer to a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common, although unrelated viruses, being Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C (Hep A, Hep B and Hep C).
Viral hepatitis is the most common cause of hepatitis worldwide. In the United States, Hepatitis C has become the most common since widespread vaccination of Hepatitis B in the mid-1980’s. Hep C:
- Affects an estimated 3.2 million adults living in the United States
- Of those, roughly 60-70% are unaware of their infection
- Even without symptoms, Hep C infected persons remain a source of transmission
- Infected individuals are at an elevated risk for developing chronic liver disease