Hepatitis Viruses

Which is the really dangerous letter?

By Deane Barker

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are the dangerous versions.

Hepatitis is generally defined as inflammation of the liver. It can be caused two ways:

  1. Behavioral and environmental factors, like chronic alcoholism and some medications
  2. Several virus strains, including those denoted by letters (five of them; A through E). The strains are not related in any way.

To be clear, “hepatitis” is simply liver inflammation. “Viral hepatitis” is liver inflammation caused by a virus. The condition is generally referred to by the name of the virus – for example, someone is said to have contracted “Hepatitis A.”

There are vaccines for Hepatitis A, B, and D.

A and E are not serious. They are transmitted through fecal matter, and are common in developing countries.

B, C, and D are exchanged through blood, often incidental to sexual contact.

B and C often lead to chronic hepatitis, and occasionally to liver cancer.

D is considered “defective.” It can only propagate when B is also present.

Why I Looked It Up

I had heard of the letters for years, but never knew which was the one to get really concerned about.

I remember an SNL skit where Abby Elliot played Ke$ha and ended a song with the verse “…I got Hep C.”

In Cutting for Stone, the main character contracts Hepatitis B from sexual contact with a woman who has undergone female circumstances, resulting in bleeding during intercourse. This condition almost kills him.

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