Critical Concepts

Hepatitis A, B, and C Explained

  • What do you already know about Hepatitis A B C? 
  • Hepatitis is a viral infection causing liver inflammation and can be prevented with vaccines. 
  • Learn all about hepatitis for Liver Cancer Awareness Month!

Sadia Arshad

MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC

September 30, 2022
Simmons University

What Is Hepatitis A B C?

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month. As part of this month, let’s dive into the world of hepatitis or inflammation of the liver. Even though this viral infection is a global health concern, massive vaccination and screening efforts have caused hepatitis rates to drop significantly. 

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is an essential organ since it does several things for the body, including the breakdown of nutrients and blood filtration. If anything happens to the liver, the body can have severe problems functioning normally.  

While some lifestyle behaviors, such as heavy alcohol compensation, can cause liver damage, hepatitis is caused by the hepatitis virus. There are five types of hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis, B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E. In America, the most commonly seen types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C.  

It is important to note that the hepatitis viruses have existed for many years and have infected millions of people. If left untreated, hepatitis B and C can lead to deadly complications and a potential risk for liver cancer later in life.  

Since the release of hepatitis vaccines, hepatitis rates in America and around the world have decreased. However, with a growing population hesitant towards vaccines, nurses and other health care professionals need to be aware of this serious infection. 

How Does Someone Get Exposed to Hepatitis A B C

Hepatitis A is spread via the oral-fecal route. Often times, someone is exposed to hepatitis A if they are in contact with items that have microscopic fecal matter on them, such as food and skin.  

Hepatitis B is spread via blood and semen, and Hepatitis C is spread via blood.  

Before strict widespread blood donation screening policies, Hepatitis C was serious potential risk for blood donations occurring prior to 1992. In addition, Hepatitis A outbreaks happened often in food preparation stations and health care facilities. With the rise of vaccination efforts, handwashing efforts, and mandated glove wearing policies, the incidence of Hepatitis A has significantly decreased in America.  

Common hepatitis infection prevention practices include good handwashing techniques, using a condom, getting the Hepatitis A and B vaccination series, and avoiding the use of shared needles.

Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis A B C

Hepatitis A 

Fever 

Loss of appetite 

Fatigue 

Headache 

GI Upset 

Jaundice 

 

Hepatitis B 

Dark urine 

Jaundice 

GI Upset 

Loss of appetite 

Fever 

Fatigue 

 

Hepatitis C 

Dark urine 

Jaundice 

Fatigue 

Fever 

Spider angiomas  

Swelling in legs

How Is Hepatitis A B C Diagnosed and Managed?

Hepatitis A is diagnosed by clinical assessment and blood test. There is no single medication for Hepatitis A. Rest and hydration are recommended, as it is often a self-limiting viral infection that resolves within a few months and rarely leads to chronic liver infection.  

Hepatitis B is also diagnosed by clinical assessment and blood test. There is no single medication for Hepatitis B in its acute stage. Rest and hydration are recommended, but Hepatitis B can progress to be a chronic infection in 15-25% of all cases. If Hepatitis B becomes a chronic infection, liver health monitoring and antiviral medication is essential. It is important to note that untreated Hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer.  

In addition, Hepatitis C is diagnosed by clinical assessment and blood test. There is no single medication for Hepatitis C in its acute stage. Rest and hydration are recommended, but Hepatitis C can progress to be a chronic infection more than 50% of all cases. If Hepatitis C becomes a chronic infection, liver health monitoring and antiviral medication is the treatment regime. It is important to note that untreated Hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer.  

The best way to prevent a Hepatitis A or B infection is with the hepatitis vaccine. There is no Hepatitis C, D, or E vaccine. 

How Can I Learn About Hepatitis Vaccines?

Because of the dangers associated with hepatitis, there are several vaccine options to prevent this infection. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed Hepatitis A and B vaccine schedules for people of all ages.  

As nurses, we are exposed to several types of infections in our work. It is important to make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccines and also able to educate your patients on vaccines as appropriate.

How To Raise Awareness About Hepatitis A B C

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month, and hepatitis is one of the most common infections prevented by immunizations. Often times, there can be mixed messages people see on social media and from their community members regarding vaccines. 

Nurses are the most trusted profession for a reason. Patients often turn to nurses for medical information since there can be so many uncertainties about health care, medication, and more. 

Some ways you can raise awareness about the hepatitis vaccine and other vaccines include: 

  • Providing educational materials 
  • Addressing any concerns patients have about vaccines 
  • Offering immunizations during that visit 
  • Reviewing patients’ immunization records 
  • Educating patients on immunizations during each encounter 
  • Discussing with nursing management on any immunization efforts at your workplace for both patients and staff

The Bottom Line

Vaccines, handwashing, and infection control are a public health milestone and have saved the lives of millions of people. There are several groups of people, such as children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people, for which hepatitis can be life-endangering.  

However, discussing vaccines is a sensitive topic for many patients. It is essential to recognize and understand the nursing role to inform, educate, and support vaccine efforts.  

It is also crucial for nurses to recognize that there are several reasons why someone would not want a vaccine. There are people who have had negative experiences with the health care system, people with cultural differences, or people who have certain beliefs.     

If you are eager to learn more about hepatitis A B C, vaccines, and public health, I would encourage you to investigate the Association of Public Health Nurses or the American Nurses Association 

You can also learn about the latest trends in hepatitis by reading the Journal of Viral Hepatitis or the Journal of Issues in Nursing. 

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