What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver

There are three main types:

Hepatitis A is caught through poor hygiene and infected food and water.

Hepatitis B and C are both easily transmitted through blood (although B is also found in semen and saliva) and have become problems for people who share injecting equipment when using drugs.

Hepatitis B and C are easier to pass from one person to another than HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

People may have no symptoms of hepatitis when they first get infected, but can still infect others if they share injecting equipment. They might become quite ill, possibly many years later, and feel very tired with flu-like symptoms, vomiting, fever and jaundice.

To reduce the risk of hepatitis, injecting drug users (IDUs) are advised never to share injecting equipment with anyone else and to use needle exchange schemes.

According to the ACMD report – The primary prevention of hepatitis c among injecting drug users (PDF) – it is likely that between 120,000 to 300,000 (mid estimate 190,000) people are infected with HCV in England and Wales and about 50,000 in Scotland – 85-90 per cent acquired through injecting drug use. Approximately one in five people recover with the rest becoming chronically infected. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.

Useful links

Hepatitis C trust