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What are germs? What's the difference between a bacteria and virus? How are germs spread? How can germs be eliminated? We're glad you asked. Find all this and more.

Hepatitis A, B and C

Germ Type: Virus

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are a family of contagious viruses that affect the liver.

  • Hepatitis A does not result in chronic disease. It is spread by person-to-person contact or through contaminated food or water. In some countries, hepatitis A is spread via contaminated water and food; in the U.S., chlorination kills any virus that enters the water supply. Hepatitis A usually improves without treatment; people with Hepatitis A should check with a health professional before taking any medication or dietary supplements as these can potentially damage the liver. Alcohol should be avoided.

    strong>Prevention: Frequent handwashing after using the bathroom and before handling food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A; this is especially important for those infected with the virus (or caring for someone who is). Hepatitis A virus can survive for weeks on surfaces like countertops, bathroom tiles and plastic toys, so disinfection of the environment is important to stop the spread of the virus. CDC recommends that all one-year-old children, certain international travelers, and those in certain at-risk groups receive the hepatitis A vaccine. (Ask your healthcare provider whether you are at risk.)

  • Hepatitis B can cause acute serious illness, and lead to chronic/lifelong infection, scarring (cirrhosis), liver disease or death. It is spread via puncture or mucous-membrane contact with blood or body fluid of an infected person, or can be passed from mother to child during birth.

    Prevention: CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for all infants and others at risk. Contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person, or items that could contain them (such as razors, toothbrushes or syringes), should be avoided. Hands should be washed anytime there is contact with body fluids to help prevent the spread of this virus.

  • Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. It can cause chronic infection leading to cirrhosis, liver disease, or death. It often has no symptoms. It is spread via contact with blood of an infected person, typically through the sharing of syringes or other injection equipment.

    Prevention: The best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis C is to avoid the sharing of syringes. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.