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The key to effective disease management of acute and chronic viral hepatitis is coordinated care among specialty-trained physicians. Treatment is enforced through strict standards of practice, treatment protocols, close coordination of care with referring physicians and providing the most advanced and scientifically based approaches to the management of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a serious inflammation of the liver, usually due to a virus. The most prevalent of these in the United Stare are hepatitis A, B and C. Weill Cornell Medicine offers the most advanced diagnostic and treatment procedures for patients with all forms of viral hepatitis.
Treatment for hepatitis varies, depending on the type and severity of the disease:
Hepatitis A is the most common form of viral hepatitis. The disease is acquired from contaminated food or water. In healthy individuals, it causes an acute illness with fever, loss of appetite and jaundice lasting two to three weeks. Complete recovery is the rule, followed by life-long immunity to the virus. In people with pre-existing advanced liver disease, acute hepatitis A tends to be severe and can be fatal.
Acquired through exposure to the blood or secretions of an infected person, hepatitis B also can be transmitted through sexual contact. Newborns may acquire it at the time of birth from a mother with active hepatitis B.
Adults who contract hepatitis B have an acute illness that ranges from very mild, with flu-like symptoms only, to nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice.
Most people with the condition recover and develop immunity, but 5 percent to 10 percent become persistently infected, and have the potential to infect others. For infants who are exposed at birth and do not receive treatment, the rate of chronic infection is much higher. People with long-standing active hepatitis B, spanning more than 20 years, are at risk of developing liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is usually spread through contact with infected blood. It can either be acute or become chronic and even life threatening. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
The acute illness is frequently very mild. However, many people fail to clear the virus, such that about 70 percent become chronically infected. An estimated 4 million Americans have hepatitis C, many of whom are unaware of their condition. As the disease progresses, the first sign may be nothing more than decreased energy. As the liver disease becomes significant, patients may experience retention of fluid, causing swelling of the ankles and increased weight, internal bleeding and confusion.