A comparison of hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C

Compare the differences among hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C

Hepatitis A (hep A)

What is it?

A liver illness caused by hep A virus. The virus makes people sick but only for 1-3 weeks.

Window period (the time between infection and the illness showing up in blood tests)

It takes 2-4 weeks after catching the virus before it shows up in blood tests (but tests are usually not done due to the short nature of illness).

Transmitted by:

Food or water contaminated with sewerage, anything with human poo on it that comes in contact with the mouth.

Symptoms

  • Feeling unwell, aches and pains, fever, nausea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, followed by jaundice (yellowing of eyes and sometimes skin).
  • Young children usually have no symptoms.

Things which put people at risk

  • Household contact with an infected person
  • Sexual contact (involving anal sex) with an infected person
  • Travelling through developing countries.

Treatment

  • Rest and keeping up fluids, but no treatment needed
  • Some people use complementary therapies to manage their symptoms but care must be taken as some therapies may cause liver damage (e.g. herbals).

Vaccine

Yes. It is safe and effective.

Prevention

  • Get vaccinated
  • Household contacts and sexual partners of someone with hep A should be given immunoglobulin (a drug that gives short-term protection)
  • Wash hands after going to the toilet and before eating
  • Practice safer sex.

Hepatitis B (hep B)

What is it?

Is a liver infection (caused by hep B virus). Most adults who get hep B clear their infection. Most children who get hep B develop hep B for life and have risk of liver disease later in life.

Window period (the time between infection and the illness showing up in blood tests)

It takes 4-6 weeks (HBsAg test).

Transmitted by

  • Mother to baby
  • blood or other body fluids of someone with hep B getting into another person’s bloodstream
  • sexual contact.

Symptoms

Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they include jaundice (see above), dark urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and joint pain.

Treatment

  • Good treatments are available for all adults who hold Medicare cards
  • Treatment aims to prevent liver damage but is not an actual cure
  • Not everyone will need treatment and there are short- or longterm options
  • Phone the Hepatitis Infoline for more information

Vaccine

Yes, the hep B vaccine is safe and effective, and is part of Australia’s national immunisation program.

Prevention

  • Get vaccinated
  • Newborn babies should be given an injection of immunoglobulin within 12 hours of birth
  • Don’t share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs
  • Avoid blood-to-blood contact
  • Practice safer sex.

Hepatitis C (hep C)

What is it?

Is an easily-cured liver infection (caused by hep C virus).

Window period (the time between infection and the illness showing up in blood tests)

For adults it takes 2 weeks after catching the virus before it shows up in blood tests (PCR test). For babies, it takes 8 weeks (PCR test).

Transmitted by

  • Blood of someone with hep C getting into another person’s bloodstream
  • Mother to baby.

Symptoms

  • Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they are like having a mild flu. A small number of people may have hep B-like symptoms (see above).

Treatment

  • Very good treatments are available for all adults who hold Medicare cards
  • These treatments give high cure rates for all hep C genotypes
  • Patients can speak to a GP or specialist, or for more info about treatment options, phone the Hepatitis Infoline.

Vaccine

No, there is no vaccine but scientists are trying hard to develop one

Prevention

  • Do not share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs
  • Avoid other bloodto-blood contact
  • Avoid backyard tattooists and piercers
  • Use shops that follow proper sterile procedures
  • Avoid needle stick injuries.

For more information about anything in this factsheet, phone the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 or go to www.hep.org.au.

This factsheet was developed by Hepatitis NSW. It was reviewed by the Hepatitis NSW Medical and Research Advisory Panel.

Last Reviewed: 17/01/2018

Hepatitis NSW



References

Hepatitis NSW. Hepatitis factsheets: Hep A, B and C. Last updated 17 Jan 2018 https://www.hep.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Factsheet-ABC-comparison.pdf (accessed Nov 2019).