Overview of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most commonly caused by alcohol, certain medications and viral infections (viral hepatitis).

Viral hepatitis may be caused by several different viruses named Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses. All of these viruses may cause acute, or short-term viral infections of the liver. The hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can also cause chronic hepatitis, in which the infection is prolonged, sometimes lifelong.

Hepatitis A, B and C only will be addressed in the following information.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of viral hepatitis may include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low grade fever
  • Dark urine and paler appearing stool (“clay colored stool”)
  • Headache

However, some people do not have any symptoms.

Types of Hepatitis

Hepatitis A

Disease Spread or Transmission
  • Food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person
  • Rarely spread through infected blood or sex with an infected person
  • Hepatitis A vaccine
  • Practicing good hygiene, especially hand washing
  • Avoid tap water when traveling internationally

Usually resolves on its own over several weeks

Hepatitis B

Disease Spread or Transmission
  • Contact with infected blood: e.g. from infected mother to child during childbirth
  • Through unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Injection drug abusers sharing needles, tattooing with unsterile needles
  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • For acute Hepatitis B: usually resolves on its own (very severe cases can be treated with lamivudine)
  • For chronic Hepatitis B: drug treatment with alpha-interferon, peg-interferon, lamivudine, or adefovir dipivoxil

Hepatitis C

Disease Spread or Transmission

Contact with infected blood: same examples as for Hepatitis B, but spread less commonly through sexual contact & childbirth


No vaccine at this time, therefore, only way is prevention of exposure to the Hepatitis C virus such as not sharing “sharps” (needles, razors, nail clippers) or toothbrushes of infected persons; protected sex with condom usage


Drug treatment with peg-interferon alone or combination with the drug ribavirin

Note: Specific prescription drug treatment for Hepatitis B or C generally would be done in conjunction with specialist evaluation &/or at a center specializing in evaluation and treatment of these disorders.

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.