Five main types of hepatitis viruses have been identified: A, B, C, D and E. While they can cause similar symptoms, there are differences in transmission and the effect they have on the liver.

Hepatitis A virus and hepatitis E virus infections manifest only as an acute infection and do not become chronic. Both are mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis B virus is most commonly spread from mother to infant during childbirth, and through exposure to infected blood or other body fluids (semen, saliva), sharing contaminated needles or other sharp objects.

Hepatitis C virus is mostly transmitted through exposure to infected blood. This can happen during activities such as sharing contaminated needles, syringes or straws when using drugs; using nonsterile tattooing and body piercing equipment; needle stick injury in healthcare settings; being born to a mother who has hepatitis C; and less commonly through sexual contact.

Both hepatitis B and C are NOT spread by sharing food.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems.

Hepatitis D virus infection can only happen in people who are infected with hepatitis B virus. It is transmitted through exposure to infected blood or other body fluids (semen).

Vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B viral infection, but none are available for hepatitis C, D or E viruses.