Viral Hepatitis | Liver Disease

Liver Disease

Viral Hepatitis

Our liver disease specialists have specific expertise in treating viral hepatitis. We’re here to give you the best ongoing care with your quality of life as our top priority.

Medically reviewed by Eric Chak, M.D. on Aug. 07, 2023.

Male health care provider talking to male patient in a clinic

What is Viral Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of your liver. Several different viruses cause viral hepatitis, and some types can lead to a chronic (long-term) infection.

Our hepatology (liver care) team understands how chronic hepatitis infection can impact your life. We’re here to give you the most advanced treatments and ongoing support.


Viral Hepatitis Symptoms

If you have chronic (long-term) viral hepatitis, you may not have any symptoms, or they may be mild.

Common Symptoms of Acute Viral Hepatis

With acute viral hepatitis, you may have flu-like symptoms. You also may experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes)
  • Weight loss

Emergency Symptoms

Get medical care right away if you experience:

  • Black or bloody stools
  • Swelling in your abdomen, ankles, feet and legs
  • Swelling in your abdomen, ankles, feet and legs
  • High fever
  • Vomiting blood

Causes of Viral Hepatitis

The different types of viruses that cause hepatitis spread in different ways, such as through infected food, blood, fecal matter and other body fluids. Some hepatitis viruses can pass from mother to child during childbirth.

Viruses that cause hepatitis include:

Hepatitis A

Most people heal from this type of hepatitis with no long-term complications.

Hepatitis B

This virus leads to a lifelong, chronic condition in a small percentage of people.

Hepatitis C

Most people with this virus develop a chronic liver condition. Hepatitis C is a common cause of liver disease.

Hepatitis D

This virus can only infect you when the hepatitis B virus is already in your body.

Hepatitis E

This virus spreads in contaminated food or water.

Other Viruses

Some other viruses can lead to viral hepatitis, including cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV).


Risk Factors for Viral Hepatitis

Certain factors can increase your risk of getting a virus that causes hepatitis, such as:

Blood Transfusion

Screening blood donors for hepatitis B virus wasn't mandatory until 1972. Screening tests for hepatitis C virus weren't widely available until 1992. If you got a blood transfusion before those dates, you could have contracted hepatitis B or C.

Intravenous Drug Use

Sharing needles or using contaminated needles for IV drug use raises your risk of hepatitis B and C.

Job Setting

People who work in daycares, the food industry, medical facilities or sewage facilities have a higher risk of hepatitis A, B and C.


Travelling to underdeveloped areas may put you at higher risk of hepatitis A and B.

Unprotected Sex

Having unprotected sex raises your risk of hepatitis B and C.


Diagnosing Viral Hepatitis

Your specialist will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. You will also have blood work. There are specific blood tests for most of the viruses that cause viral hepatitis.

Viral Hepatitis Treatments at UC Davis Health

UC Davis Health offers a range of therapies for all types of liver diseases. Our hepatology team specializes in treating hepatitis, with a specific focus on chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Your treatment depends on the type of virus you have.

Lifestyle Changes

Avoiding alcohol helps lower the strain on your liver. Also, avoid excessive weight gain as this can lead to a fatty liver, which can damage your liver.


There are several medications for treating hepatitis B and C infections. Your provider may prescribe antivirals that stop the virus from reproducing itself in your body.


If your liver becomes too damaged due to viral hepatitis, you may be a candidate for a liver transplant. Our Division of Transplant Surgery specialists support you through the entire transplant process.


Preventing Viral Hepatitis

Getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B can prevent infections of these viruses. Avoiding contact with blood, IV drug use and unprotected sex can lower your risk of hepatitis B and C.

If you have a chronic viral hepatitis infection, you may need to take precautions to prevent spreading hepatitis to others. Your provider may recommend using a condom or other barrier method during sex. You may also want to avoid sharing items, like razors, that may have blood on them.

In 2020 the U.S. saw

11K+New cases of chronic hepatitis B

In the U.S., an estimated

2-4MPeople have chronic hepatitis C


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Hepatitis B Surveillance 2020 

American Liver Foundation: Hepatitis C Information Center

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