Hepatitis A, B and C are inflammations of the liver caused by different viruses.
People with hepatitis A, B and C do not always have symptoms.
When people have symptoms, they appear at different times depending on the type of hepatitis:
Symptoms of hepatitis include the following:
Consult a health-care professional or call Info-Santé 811 if you have symptoms or if you have taken part in 'at risk' behaviours, such as:
In most cases, a hepatitis A infection heals itself within 2 months. The body gets rid of the virus and produces antibodies that protect against all new infections by the hepatitis A virus. There are no “chronic carriers”. The person is generally protected for life.
In most cases, the infection heals itself within 6 months. The body gets rid of the virus and produces antibodies that protect against all new infections by the hepatitis B virus. The person is generally protected for life.
Sometimes the body is unable to get rid of the virus and does not produce antibodies to protect against hepatitis B. In such a case, the infection is not cured and the person can spread hepatitis B even if he or she has no symptoms. Such a person is a “chronic carrier” of hepatitis B.
Treatments are available to limit complications associated with chronic hepatitis B and to cure certain chronic carriers of the virus.
In some people, the infection heals without treatment within 6 months. The body gets rid of the virus and produces antibodies against hepatitis C. However, the antibodies do not protect the person against a new infection of hepatitis C.
In most cases, the body is unable to get rid of the virus. The infection does not heal and the person can spread hepatitis C even without having symptoms. Such a person is a “chronic carrier” of hepatitis C.
Treatments are available to limit complications associated with chronic hepatitis C and cure the infection. However, even if a person is healed, he or she is not protected against a new infection of hepatitis C.
People with hepatitis should notify their sex and drug partners as quickly as possible. This way, their partners:
In chronic carriers of hepatitis B and C, possible complications include:
An infected person can spread hepatitis A, B, or C even if he or she does not have symptoms.
The hepatitis A virus is found in the stools of an infected person. Stools can be in food, water or on various surfaces. They are not always visible.
Hepatitis A is spread through:
The hepatitis B virus is spread through sex or blood.
Sexual transmission can occur during:
Sexual transmission can occur in the absence of orgasm or ejaculation.
Transmission through blood can occur during:
An infected mother can also pass on hepatitis B to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. For further information, read the Sexually Transmitted and Blood-borne Infections (STBBIs) and Pregnancy page.
The hepatitis C virus is spread through sex or blood.
Sexual transmission can occur:
Transmission through blood can occur during:
An infected mother can also pass on hepatitis C to her baby during childbirth.
There is a vaccine to protect against hepatitis A and another for hepatitis B. Since 2013, infants in Québec can receive a free vaccine against hepatitis B as part of the regular immunization schedule.
A combined vaccine against hepatitis A and B is also available. In Québec, the vaccine is free for Grade 4 students. It is also given free of charge to some people more at risk of catching these infections. This includes men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.
There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C.
To receive more information about vaccines, you can:
Washing hands and using sterile water to prepare and use drugs lower the risk of catching hepatitis A. The use of new paraphernalia for the preparation, injection and inhalation of drugs lowers the risk of catching hepatitis B and C through blood.
Never share drug paraphernalia. To know the location of distribution points for drug injecting material, call Info-Santé 811.
Tattoo artists and piercers must use new, disposable or sterilized material. Such precaution lowers the risk of spreading hepatitis B and C. This includes razors, needles, blades, bottles and inks, as well as everything that comes into contact with the skin or blood. With regard to ear piercing, the earlobe should be disinfected before piercing and the piercing gun must be disinfected with 70% alcohol between each client. Tattoo artists and piercers must also wash their hands and wear gloves.
For the best protection against hepatitis A, B and C, use a condom:
The use of a sheet of latex to cover the vulva or anus during oral sex lowers the risk of spreading hepatitis viruses. It helps prevent direct contact between the mouth and the genitals. A sheet of latex can be made by unrolling a condom, cutting off both ends and then cutting it lengthwise.
The use of a latex glove lowers the risk of spreading hepatitis C during fingering or fisting of the anus. The glove must be changed after each partner.
Sex toys should not be shared. People who share sex toys can lower the risk of spreading hepatitis by covering them with a condom. They must change condoms after each partner.
Consult a health-care professional or call Info-Santé 811 immediately if:
Consult a health-care professional if:
Hepatitis A is usually detected when there are symptoms. If you have symptoms, consult a health-care professional.
A blood test can detect if you have hepatitis B or C.
A person must get tested if he or she has taken part in 'at risk' behaviours, such as:
This way, he or she can prevent complications and avoid spreading hepatitis B or C to other people.
To get tested for hepatitis B or C, consult a health-care professional or call Info-Santé 811.
Last update: March 9, 2017 3:15 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 811 or see a health professional.