Hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver. It may or may not be caused by a virus. Sometimes it can be autoimmune, which means that it is caused by the body’s own immune system overreacting.
If viral, hepatitis in the United States will almost always be type A, B, or C — and the difference among these three is huge.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted from consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted when blood, semen or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.
Viral hepatitis can be acute or chronic, the latter being an infection that remains in the body that can then lead to the development of cirrhosis and sometimes, liver cancer.
Hepatitis A usually clears up on its own without any permanent damage and is prevented with a vaccine. The unfortunate reality of chronic hepatitis B is that it is not curable. It can, however, be very effectively treated, thus preventing development of cirrhosis — and it is preventable by vaccination. Chronic hepatitis C, on the other hand, is now curable and in many cases doesn’t require prolonged toxic treatment. Although there is no vaccine at this point for chronic hepatitis C, hopefully one day soon there will be a vaccine available.