What are the differences between hepatitis A, B, C, and other types of viral hepatitis?


Jojo Ming (Image: Apollo Hospitals)

Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Viruses are the primary cause of hepatitis, and there are several types, labeled alphabetically—A, B, C, D, and E—each caused by different viruses, affecting the liver differently. The most common types are A, B, and C.

Hepatitis A:

  • Cause: Hepatitis A is caused by consuming contaminated food or water with the virus or direct contact with an infected person.
  • Transmission: It spreads through fecal-oral route, often in areas with poor sanitation.
  • Symptoms: Flu-like symptoms, jaundice, abdominal pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
  • Prevention: Vaccination, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding contaminated food/water.

Hepatitis B:

  • Cause: Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), transmitted through contact with infected blood, unprotected sex, or from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
  • Transmission: Unprotected sex, sharing needles, and from mother to child during childbirth.
  • Symptoms: Similar to hepatitis A but can become chronic, leading to liver cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.
  • Prevention: Vaccination, practicing safe sex, avoiding sharing needles, and using precautions in medical settings.

Hepatitis C:

  • Cause: Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), primarily transmitted through exposure to infected blood.
  • Transmission: Sharing needles, blood transfusions (less common due to improved screening), and less commonly, from mother to child during childbirth.
  • Symptoms: Often asymptomatic in the early stages but can lead to chronic infection, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.
  • Prevention: No vaccine available; precautions include avoiding sharing needles, screening blood products, and using precautions in medical settings.

Other Types:

  • Hepatitis D (Delta): It’s a rare virus that only affects those infected with hepatitis B. It worsens the outcome of hepatitis B infections.
  • Hepatitis E: Usually transmitted through contaminated water and is more common in areas with poor sanitation. It’s generally self-limiting but can be severe in pregnant women.
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis: Not caused by a virus but occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the liver, leading to inflammation and liver damage.
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis: Caused by excessive alcohol consumption, leading to liver inflammation and damage.
  • Toxic and Drug-Induced Hepatitis: Can occur due to exposure to certain toxins or medications, leading to liver inflammation.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Diagnosis: Blood tests (to detect viral markers), imaging studies (ultrasound, CT scan), and liver biopsy in some cases.
  • Treatment: Vaccination for Hepatitis A and B. Antiviral medications for chronic hepatitis B and C. Management of symptoms and avoiding the cause for other types.


Each type of viral hepatitis differs in its cause, mode of transmission, symptoms, and prevention measures. While vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B, there’s no vaccine for hepatitis C. Early detection and proper management are crucial in preventing complications and reducing the spread of these viruses.