Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Causes of hepatitis include:
* Infections from parasites, bacteria, or viruses
(such as Hepatitis A, B, or C)
* Liver damage from alcohol, drugs, or poisonous mushrooms
* An overdose of acetaminophen, which is rare but deadly
* Immune cells in the body attacking the liver and causing autoimmune hepatitis
Many people recover fully, although it may take months for the liver to heal. Roughly half of those with hepatitis C develop chronic liver disease and, possibly, liver failure (cirrhosis) or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the number one reason for receiving a liver transplant in the United States today.
A Hepatitis A vaccine is available for people in high-risk groups, like day care and nursing home workers, laboratory workers, and those traveling to certain parts of the world. A Hepatitis B vaccine is now given to all infants and unvaccinated children under 18. The vaccine is available for adults at high risk, such as health care professionals, IV drug users, and those with risky sexual behavior.