Hepatitis B and C are contagious liver diseases that can either be acute (causing short-term illness) or chronic (causing long-term illness).
Acute hepatitis B and C occur shortly after someone is exposed to the virus. They can lead to chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B and C is when the virus remains in the person’s body for longer than 6 months after they were first exposed.
Children may also get hepatitis B or C because they are living with or have exchanged blood and/or bodily fluids with someone who is infected.
Hepatitis B and C can also be spread by:
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person, especially when there is potential for bleeding.
- Sharing contaminated needles or other drug-injecting equipment.
- Having a blood transfusion in a country where blood is not screened for viral hepatitis. (The United States began widespread screening of its blood supply in 1992. Today, some adults with hepatitis C became infected through a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.)
Chronic hepatitis B and C may require treatment with medicines.
If left untreated over a long time, hepatitis B and C can cause liver damage, such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.