Hepatitis means there is swelling in the liver.

Viruses, alcohol, drugs and other toxins can damage the liver. When this happens you can get hepatitis. Sometimes a problem with the immune system can also cause hepatitis. But this is less common.

There are five types of viruses that can cause hepatitis

The viruses cause similar symptoms. Some types make you more unwell than others. The viruses spread in different ways.

Hepatitis A

You can get Hepatitis A if you eat or drink something that has come into contact with infected poo. This can happen when the water source is not clean. It can also happen when people do not wash their hands correctly.

It can make you very sick, but it doesn't last long. Most people get completely better.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is carried in the blood. It spreads in a few ways:

  • From mother to baby (this is the most common way)
  • Between household members
  • Between sexual partners

You can protect yourself by getting a vaccine. The vaccines work well and are safe. Most people who get infected as adults will get rid of it. But most babies that have hepatitis B will have it their whole life. We call this chronic hepatitis B. Find out more about how to stop hepatitis B from spreading from mother to child.

If you have chronic hepatitis B you can take medicine to lower your chances of getting liver disease. Most people who take medicine can live well with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is carried in the blood. Find out more about how hepatitis C spreads here.

Treatment for hepatitis C cures most people. The treatment is simple to take and works in 12 weeks. Find out more about hepatitis C cures here.

If a person has had hepatitis C for a long time, they may still have some health problems. This is because their liver may already be damaged. Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause liver disease and cancer.

Hepatitis D

You can only get this type if you have hepatitis B. It can make the hepatitis B get worse more quickly.

Hepatitis E 

Hepatitis E is like hepatitis A. You can get it if you eat some types of meat or drink water infected with poo. It is very rare in Australia. It can make you very unwell but it doesn't last long. Most people get fully better.

 If you think you might have hepatitis, you can:

  • ring the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222
  • visit a doctor

How hepatitis affects your liver


Hepatitis A, World Health Organization

Hepatitis B, World Health Organization

Hepatitis C, World Health Organization

Hepatitis D, World Health Organization

Hepatitis E, World Health Organization

Page updated 2 Sep 2022