Viral Hepatitis (cont.)

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Who is at risk for viral hepatitis?

People who are most at risk for developing viral hepatitis are:

  • workers in the health care professions,
  • sewage and water treatment workers,
  • people with multiple sexual partners,
  • intravenous drug users,
  • HIV patients, and
  • hemophiliacs who receive blood clotting factors.

Blood transfusion, once a common means of spreading viral hepatitis, now is a rare cause of hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is generally thought to be as much as ten times more common among lower socioeconomic and poorly educated individuals. About one third of all cases of hepatitis come from an unknown or unidentifiable source. This means that a person does not have to be in a high risk group in order to be infected with a hepatitis virus. In countries with poor sanitation, food and water contamination with HAV increases risk. Some day care centers may become contaminated with HAV, so children at such centers are at a higher risk for HAV infections.

What are the symptoms and signs of viral hepatitis?

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The period of time between exposure to hepatitis and the onset of the illness is called the incubation period. The incubation period varies depending on the specific hepatitis virus. Hepatitis A virus has an incubation period of about 15 to 45 days; Hepatitis B virus from 45 to 160 days, and Hepatitis C virus from about 2 weeks to 6 months.

Many patients infected with HAV, HBV, and HCV have few or no symptoms of illness. For those who do develop symptoms of viral hepatitis, the most common are flu- like symptoms including:

Less common symptoms include:

  • dark urine
  • light-colored stools
  • fever
  • jaundice (a yellow appearance to the skin and white portion of the eyes)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/20/2012

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