Hepatitis B and C are both viral infections, and they both affect your liver, but there are many differences 一 including how they’re spread and how they’re treated 一 between the two. One major difference is that there is a vaccine for hepatitis B, but not for C.
In this article, Drs. Ines Munoz De Laborde and Svetlana Burkhead dive deeper into this topic and shed light on the key differences between these two viral infections.
Approximately 1.2 million people have Hepatitis B, and an estimated 2.4 million people live with hepatitis C in the United States.
Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids, including blood and semen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis B is spread through:
- Sexual intercourse
- Birth (spreading from an infected mother during birth)
- Sharing needles
- Sharing toiletries (such as a razor) with an infected person
Hepatitis C is also spread through contact with blood, particularly needlesticks with contaminated blood. The CDC notes that hepatitis C is also transmitted through unregulated tattooing and sharing contaminated personal items.
Neither hepatitis B nor C is spread through water.
Both infections affect your liver. Typical symptoms of hepatitis include fatigue, jaundice, joint pain, fever, and pale stools. Pale stools can be a sign of liver problems or gastrointestinal issues.
Hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is more likely to become a chronic condition. About 20% of those with chronic hepatitis C infections develop scarring on their liver.
Although the symptoms are similar, the treatments vary. For acute hepatitis B, the typical treatments include rest, fluids, and adequate nutrition. Medication may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of chronic hepatitis B infections.
Hepatitis C is treated with direct-acting antiviral medications, but if your liver becomes severely damaged, you may require a liver transplant. Examples of direct-acting antiviral medications, including daclatasvir, ombitasvir/paritaprevir, simeprevir, and sofosbuvir.
The type and dosage of your medication depending on which hepatitis genotype you have and how extensive your liver damage is.
Because hepatitis is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help.
Because both infections can cause serious liver complications, prevention is the best way to protect your liver. Here at Physicians Medical Urgent Care in San Jose, California, our team of providers recommend a vaccine for those who are not yet inoculated against hepatitis B. Immigration physicals also include the hepatitis B and hepatitis A immunizations.
Other preventions steps for both viral infections include:
- Avoid direct contact with blood
- Always use proper hand hygiene
- Wear appropriate protective gear to avoid any accidental workplace needlesticks (note that needlesticks are considered workplace injuries and should be documented accordingly)
- Wear condoms and implement safe sex practices
- Never share personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes, etc.
- Don’t use drugs or share any needles
If you have concerns about your hepatitis B vaccine status or if you have questions about documenting a work injury related to a needlestick, schedule an appointment by calling 408-207-4637. We welcome walk-ins, but you’re also welcome to schedule an appointment online.