Hepatitis is an infection that attacks the liver, the organ that performs the critical functions of storing energy, filtering poisons, and metabolizing alcohol and drugs.
Several viruses cause hepatitis. The principal ones are hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is a short-term threat, while the others pose more menacing, long-term complications that can take years or even decades to emerge. The viruses differ in symptoms, transmission, and prevention safeguards.
It's not surprising that even doctors sometimes can't keep it all straight. Public awareness is just beginning, says Dr. Harold Margolis, chief of the Hepatitis Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Ten years ago, most people associated hepatitis with bad food."
While understanding the hepatitis alphabet isn't as easy as A-B-C, the following rundown should give you enough information to earn a passing grade.
Continued on page 2: Hepatitis A