Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.

When the liver is damaged by viruses, alcohol, drugs or over-consumption of other toxins, you can develop hepatitis. In less common cases, you can get hepatitis because your immune system stops working properly.

There are five viruses known to infect and inflame the liver.

These are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. The symptoms of all five viruses can be similar. But the main difference is the way they are transmitted and the effects they have on your health.

Hepatitis A is most often spread when a person consumes food or drink which has become contaminated with very small particles of infected faeces (poo), usually due to poor sanitation or when hands are not washed thoroughly. It can have serious (but short-lived) symptoms and people generally make a full recovery.

Hepatitis B is a blood borne virus and can be sexually transmitted. There is a safe and effective vaccine to protect you against hepatitis B. You can get treatment to manage chronic hepatitis B but not cure it.

Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus. Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause liver disease and liver cancer, but there is now a highly effective cure.

Hepatitis D (or hepatitis delta) only affects people who have hepatitis B and can accelerate the impacts of hepatitis B, leading to worse outcomes for people living with both viruses.

Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A. It is most often spread when a person consumes food or drink which has become contaminated with very small particles of infected faeces (poo). It can have serious (but short-lived) symptoms and people generally make a full recovery. It is extremely rare in Australia.

How hepatitis affects your liver


Page updated 28 August 2020