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Hepatitis (sometimes shortened to hep) is an inflammation of the liver. The liver is a large organ on the right-hand side of your body that turns food into energy and filters toxins such as alcohol.

What causes hepatitis?

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Hepatitis can occur because of a viral infection or exposure to alcohol.

The three most common viral forms are: 

The other forms of hepatitis – D, E, F and G – are very rare. 

The cause of some hepatitis is still unknown, so scientists believe there are other viruses yet to be discovered.

Hepatitis A and B can be vaccinated against. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.

What happens if you have hepatitis?

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Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

Acute hepatitis happens after initial infection and is short term. It can lead to chronic hepatitis, which is long term.

Some types of hepatitis – such as hepatitis A – only cause acute infection.

Others can be chronic and cause lasting damage to the liver. Very serious cases can lead to liver failure or cancer.

Hepatitis and HIV

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Co-infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C is becoming a major cause of illness in people living with HIV. 

Both these viruses affect the liver, can make you very ill and in some cases can be fatal. But there are treatments, and these can work well in people living with HIV.