Viral Hepatitis

Overview

Viral Hepatitis

The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus.  In the US, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic (lifelong) hepatitis. Most do not know they are infected.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually acquired when a person ingests food or water contaminated by the stool of an infected person.  Hepatitis A infection does not result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated.

Local Hepatitis A Vaccination Resources: Travel Vaccine Clinics in/around San Mateo County

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. Approximately 1.2 million people in the United States, including 1 in 12 Asian Americans, are living with Hepatitis B. Most are unaware of their infection.

Infection with the Hepatitis B virus can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.  Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen, for instance, through sexual contact with an infected person or after sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. An infected mother can also pass the virus to her baby at the time of delivery.

Hepatitis B Testing

Many people with Hepatitis B do not know they are infected since they do not look or feel sick. A simple blood test will tell whether somebody is infected with Hepatitis B. Diagnosing Hepatitis B early is essential to prevent significant liver disease. Testing can also identify at-risk household members and sexual partners who, if uninfected, can then be vaccinated and protected against Hepatitis B.

Local Free/Low-Cost Hepatitis B Testing Resources

Living with Chronic Hepatitis B

Chronic Hepatitis B can cause serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. People with Hepatitis B often do not feel sick for many years. As a result, people can be living with Hepatitis B and appear healthy while liver damage silently occurs. Whether or not you have symptoms, if you are infected, you can unwillingly spread the virus to others.  People with chronic Hepatitis B should be monitored regularly by a doctor experienced in caring for people with Hepatitis B. This doctor can determine what the most appropriate medical care is.

Find a Liver Specialist
American Liver Foundation: Find a Healthcare Provider

Find a Support Group
American Liver Foundation: Support Services

Hepatitis B Vaccination

The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.   Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants, older children and adolescents who were not vaccinated previously, and for any adult who is at risk for Hepatitis B infection or who wants to be vaccinated.

Local Hepatitis B Vaccination Resources

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus.  Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.  Chronic Hepatitis C is one of the leading causes of liver disease and is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States.  It is estimated that 3.2 million people in the United States are living with Hepatitis C. Most do not know they are infected.

Hepatitis C Prevention

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection; however, you can take steps to protect yourself from becoming infected with Hepatitis C.  To reduce the risk of becoming infected with the Hepatitis C virus:

  • Do not share needles or other equipment to inject cosmetic substances, drugs, or steroids. For needle exchange services in San Mateo County, see Testing on Demand-Needle Exchange
  • Do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or glucose monitors
  • Do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting

Hepatitis C Testing

Most people with Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms and do not know they are infected. If you think you might have been exposed to Hepatitis C, or were born between 1945 and 1965, talk to your doctor about getting tested. By knowing your Hepatitis C testing results, you can get medical care early, take care of your liver, and take action to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Living with Chronic Hepatitis C

Chronic Hepatitis C can lead to serious health problems including liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer. People with Hepatitis C often do not feel sick for many years. As a result, people can be living with Hepatitis C and appear healthy while liver damage silently occurs. Whether or not you have symptoms, if you are infected, you can unwillingly spread the virus to others. People with chronic Hepatitis C should be monitored regularly by a doctor experienced in caring for people with Hepatitis C. This doctor can determine what the most appropriate medical care is.

Find a Liver Specialist
American Liver Foundation: Find a Healthcare Provider

Find a Support Group
American Liver Foundation: Support Services
HCV Advocate: Support Groups

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is uncommon in the United States, and only occurs among people who are infected with the Hepatitis B virus. The transmission of HDV is similar to that of the Hepatitis B virus and requires contact with infectious blood. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV). While rare in the United States, Hepatitis E is common in many parts of the world. HEV is similar to Hepatitis A, in that it is spread in similar ways and usually results in an acute infection. It is transmitted from ingestion of fecal matter and is usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation.  There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for Hepatitis E

San Mateo County Viral Hepatitis Program

The San Mateo County Viral Hepatitis Program identifies cases of viral hepatitis, both acute and chronic, investigates acute cases, and makes referrals for testing, follow-up and treatment, if indicated, as well as referrals for vaccination.  We also manage San Mateo County’s Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program which helps prevent the spread of the Hepatitis B virus from pregnant women infected with Hepatitis B to their newborn children.

Contact Us
San Mateo County Viral Hepatitis Program
San Mateo County Health System
225 West 37th Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94403
Telephone: (650) 573-2346
Fax: (650) 573-2919
Hours: Mon – Fri, 8 am - 5 pm

Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program

The San Mateo County Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program was created in the fall of 2007 to help prevent the spread of the Hepatitis B virus from pregnant women infected with Hepatitis B to their newborn children.

We work closely with obstetric, pediatric and hospital providers in order to meet the following goals:

  • Identification and education of pregnant women infected with Hepatitis B residing in San Mateo County
  • Institution of appropriate and timely immunoprophylaxis for infants born to women infected with Hepatitis B
  • Postvaccination serologic testing of exposed infants
  • Screening and vaccination of susceptible household, sexual and needle-sharing contacts

For Parents: Protecting your baby from Hepatitis B infection