Viral Hepatitis

Also known as: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, hepatitis E (and other viral names)

What is viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a number of  viruses which can damage or destroy liver cells. It can be a short term disease (acute hepatitis), or long- term (chronic hepatitis). Some children with hepatitis may have few or no symptoms. When present, symptoms may be concerning. Viral inflammation of the liver can lead to scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and liver cancer.


What causes viral hepatitis?

There are many different types of viral hepatitis; some of these are identified by different letters (A, B, C, D, E, etc.). The three most common ones are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. (other viruses that may cause hepatitis include Cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr virus, Herpes virus, Chickenpox virus, and others).
Virus can be spread by persons with the virus contaminating food by not washing their hands before touching/serving food, drinking water contaminated with stool material, using/sharing drug needles or very rarely through contaminated blood transfusions.


What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

When symptoms occur, children typically present with jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, and dark urine.


What are viral hepatitis care options?

Treatments depend on the particular type of viral hepatitis:
  • Hepatitis A usually does not require any treatment and resolves on its own.
  • Acute Hepatitis B also frequently resolves on its own though some children may need to be watched and tested in hospital. Children with chronic Hepatitis B may need antiviral medications, regular observation and some even a  liver transplant.
  • Treatment for children with Hepatitis C may include antiviral drugs and other medications that help the body fight the infection.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 5/2/2017 2:38:42 PM