The World Health Organization states 170,000,000 people are infected with HCV. That means 3% of the world's population is at risk for HCV related problems such as cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), and liver failure. The highest rate is in Africa where 13% of the population is infected. The Americas have about a 1.7% incident rate. US Viet-Nam era veterans (combat and non-combat) have a 7% incident rate; and soldiers who went through Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, have a higher incident rate

 

Hepatitis Alphabet

Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects the liver. There are many types of hepatitis and experts believe more will be discovered in the future. What was once known as non-A, non-B hepatitis is now divided into several categories of Hepatitis C, D, E, and G.

This section will give a very brief overview of the similarities and differences among the various hepatitis virus now known.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A (HAV) is a RNA virus; it was previously called infectious hepatitis. It is transmitted by person-to-person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or water. It is almost never through blood products. A preventative vaccine consisting of two gamma globulin injections is available.

There is no specific treatment for HAV; however, full recovery is common. HAV does not usually result in chronic hepatitis except in the case of newborns. Ninety percent of newborns who contact HAV remain chronic. A person who has HAV develops a life-long immunity. Liver transplant is indicated only in very rare cases

 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a DNA virus; it was previously called serum hepatitis. It is transmitted through blood or blood products. It can also be transmitted by semen or vaginal fluid and is the only sexually transmitted disease preventable by vaccine. It is more contagious than HCV and 100 times more infectious than HIV. A larger percentage of Canadians get this infection through tattoos than through intraveneous drug usage. A preventative vaccine consisting of three gamma globulin injections is available.

Many people can have HBV and not know it. HBV only becomes chronic in approximately 5% of victims. Approximately 100,000 Canadians suffer with chronic HBV. Current treatment consists of Interferon injections three times a week for four months. A new drug, Lamivudine, is currently being tested. Currently liver transplants are not an effective treatment.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a single strand RNA virus. Prior to 1990, it was called non-A non-B hepatitis, meaning that it was not caused by the hepatitis A or hepatitis B virus; however diagnostic tests had not yet been developed to pinpoint the cause. After 1990, more advanced diagnostic tests became available making it possible to identify the HCV virus. It is a blood-borne pathogen that is transmitted through blood or blood products. There is currently NO vaccine available to prevent this disease.

HCV has a greater ability to mutate than HBV; therefore, HCV is more difficult for the body to fight. The large majority of infected persons, approximately 85%, will remain contagious for the rest of their life. More information is available in the section entitled, The Disease.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D (HDV) is a defective RNA virus which cannot survive on its own. This blood-borne pathogen only infects liver cells which are co-infected with Hepatitis B virus. There is no vaccine against this strain of hepatitis. Neither interferon nor transplantation is effective in the fight against hepatitis D.

On the bright side, if you are immune to HBV, you will also be immune to HDV.

 

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E (HEV) is similar to HAV and is normally transmitted by fecal contaminated water. There is no vaccine to prevent this disease. It does not cause chronic hepatitis. HEV poses a greater risk to pregnant women causing a 20% mortality rate.