“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is found in contaminated food and water, and is usually picked up while traveling outside of the US. Hepatitis B and C are long-term infections that are transmitted through blood and body fluids.
Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected. About 80,000 new infections occur each year.
How do you get it?
You can get Hepatitis A by eating contaminated food or drinking unclean water.
Hepatitis B & C are silently transmitted and have a silent progression. Many people with chronic hepatitis show no symptoms and feel perfectly healthy. They may even have normal blood test for liver function.
Hepatitis B & C are transmitted through infected body fluids in the following ways:
- From a mother to a child at the time of birth
- Contact with infected blood
- Unprotected sex
Who is at risk?
While viral hepatitis can affect anyone, some groups are at a greater risk of infection. These groups include health care workers, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, pregnant women, and immigrants.
In the US, Asian and Pacific Islander communities have the highest risk of Hepatitis B of any ethnic group. The incidence of Hepatitis B and liver cancer constitutes the greatest health disparity that exists between Asian & Pacific Islanders (APIs) and the general U.S. population.
What can you do?
- Use latex condoms while having sex
- Don’t share needles or razors
- If getting a tattoo, make sure the studio is licensed and following proper sterilization procedures
- Practice good personal hygiene
- If traveling abroad, drink bottled water and thoroughly cook all food
Vaccines are currently available from Hepatitis A & B. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
If you live in San Francisco, there are some great resources to help you protect yourself against hepatitis.
Check out these links for information about local testing and free/low-cost vaccination:
- Visit: Hep B Free San Francisco for free or low-cost testing locations
- STD Testing San Francisco has a great website and 800# for all your questions
- San Francisco Department of Public Health has information about public clinics
- SF City Clinics
For more information: