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.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dangerous Diseases and Epidemics © 2002 by David Perlin, Ph.D., and Ann Cohen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.