Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that causes inflammation and swelling, potentially resulting in permanent damage. It can be quite painful and its effects can make its victims feel weak. Hepatitis infections can be acute or chronic, and people can die from them.
The disease can be caused by many different factors, including infectious organisms, chemical toxins, poisons, drugs, and alcohol. Unlike nonviral hepatitis, which can be caused by any number of noninfectious means, viral hepatitis is caused by one of six different viruses: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, hepatitis E, or hepatitis G.
Viral hepatitis may spread through contaminated food or water, or it may be blood-borne. The worldwide incidence of viral hepatitis is enormous, with more than 300 million carriers of hepatitis B and 170 million cases of hepatitis C.