Hepatitis is a term that means inflammation of the liver.
Inflammation is a natural reaction of the body to injury and often causes swelling and tenderness.
Alcohol, chemicals, drugs and viruses can all cause hepatitis.
There are several different viruses that cause hepatitis, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Each of these viruses may produce similar symptoms and they can all infect and inflame the liver. The main difference between the viruses is how they are transmitted, the way they cause liver damage and the effects they have on a person's health.
Hepatitis is described as either an acute or chronic illness. An acute illness will only last a short time and although it may be severe, most people recover from the illness within a few weeks with no lasting effects. A chronic illness is one that lasts a long time, often for the rest of a person's life.
Hepatitis A is mostly transmitted through contact with contaminated faeces.
Hepatitis B is found in body fluids including blood, saliva, semen, mucus, vaginal fluid and breast milk. It can be easily transmitted through sexual activity, sharing injecting equipment, sharing toothbrushes or razors, unsterilised tattooing and body piercing equipment and from mother to child at birth.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood to blood contact only. This means that blood infected with hepatitis C must come into direct contact with the bloodstream of another person.