The symptoms of hepatitis C are usually mild and gradual. Children often show no symptoms at all. Transmission of hepatitis C occurs primarily from contact with infected blood, but can also occur from sexual contact or from an infected mother to her baby.
Although hepatitis C has milder symptoms initially, it leads to chronic liver disease in a majority of people who are infected. With some cases of hepatitis C, no mode of transmission can be identified.
The following characteristics describe people who may be at risk for contracting hepatitis C:
Children born to mothers who are infected with the virus
People who have a blood-clotting disorder such as hemophilia and received clotting factors before 1987
Children who require dialysis for kidney failure
Individuals who received a blood transfusion before 1992
Adolescents who participate in high-risk activities such as IV drug use and/or unprotected heterosexual or homosexual contact
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Persons who are at risk should be checked regularly for hepatitis C. Persons who have hepatitis C should be monitored closely for signs of chronic hepatitis and liver failure.
This form of hepatitis is similar to hepatitis A. Transmission occurs through fecal-oral contamination. It is less common in children than hepatitis A. Hepatitis E is most common in poorly developed countries and rarely seen in the United States. There is no vaccine for hepatitis E at this time.
This is the newest strain of hepatitis and very little is known about it. Transmission is believed to occur through blood and is most commonly seen in IV drug users, individuals with clotting disorders such as hemophilia, and individuals who require hemodialysis for renal failure. Often hepatitis G shows no clinical symptoms and has not been found to be a cause of acute or chronic hepatitis.