There are six hepatitis viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, and G.
However we usually hear about hepatitis B and C because in their chronic phase they are the most common in France.
When we speak of hepatitis infection, there are two phases: Acute phase and chronic phase.
- The acute phase refers to a six-month period of time after one or other of the viruses has entered the body. During the acute phase the virus can be cleared by the immune system or remain in the body.
- If it remains for more than six months, it becomes chronic. During this stage there are several effects on the liver which vary from individual to individual and situation to situation (HIV infection, alcohol use etc).
One of the main differences between hepatitis B and C is the risk of it becoming chronic:
- Hepatitis B: ten percent risk
- Hepatitis C: 80 percent risk
NB: If you are infected by HIV, the risk is higher.
Data in France (2004)*
- 280, 821 people are infected with chronic hepatitis B
- 221, 386 people are infected with chronic Hepatitis C
- Among those infected with HIV, 8% are co-infected with hepatitis B and about one third are co-infected with hepatitis C.
- these figures are from a survey called “Prevalence of hepatitis B and C in France in 2004” led by the French Sanitary surveillance institute (Institut de veille sanitaire) in mainland France among 14, 461 people ranging in age from 18 to 80.
4,000 to 5,000 people are infected every year.
Chronic hepatitis can develop into cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. 5,000 to 6,000 deaths from hepatitis occur each year in France. Yet half of those infected are not aware that they are carrying the virus.