What is it?

Hepati­tis is an inflam­ma­tion of the liv­er, and is often caused by a virus. Hepati­tis A, B, and C are com­mon hepati­tis virus­es in Cana­da. You can get vac­ci­na­tion shots for hepati­tis A and B, but not for hepati­tis C.

How do I get it?

Hepati­tis A is found in the feces (poo) of peo­ple with the virus and usu­al­ly spreads by close per­son­al con­tact (includ­ing sex or shar­ing a liv­ing space). Sex­u­al acts involv­ing the anus, such as rim­ming (lick­ing around or in the anus), should be done with this in mind. Hepati­tis A can also be spread by food or drink­ing water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with the virus.

Hepati­tis B is spread through infect­ed body flu­ids such as semen, blood, vagi­nal flu­ids, and sali­va. This means it can be passed through sex with­out con­doms. Shar­ing nee­dles used to inject drugs or get tat­toos, or the equip­ment used with the nee­dles is also a high risk. It can sur­vive in dried body flu­ids on tooth­brush­es, nail clip­pers, tow­els, razors etc. for up to about sev­en hours.

Hepati­tis C is found only in blood. It’s main­ly spread when things like injec­tion drug nee­dles or tat­too equip­ment are shared. Hepati­tis C can also be trans­mit­ted by shar­ing crack pipes and sniff­ing’ gear. There is a slight chance that it can be spread dur­ing sex (this increas­es when there is bleed­ing). Hepati­tis C can live in dried blood on tooth­brush­es, razors, nail clip­pers etc. for up to about four hours so these devices should not be shared.

What should I be look­ing for?

Most peo­ple who become infect­ed with the virus have no symp­toms. If symp­toms do occur, they appear two to six months after the virus is caught and can include:

  • Poor appetite, nau­sea, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Feel­ing very tired or gen­er­al­ly not well
  • Jaun­dice (yel­low­ing of skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine/​pee
  • Pale feces/​poo

Even if a per­son doesn’t have symp­toms, the virus is still dam­ag­ing their liv­er, and they can still pass it to others.

How do I get tested?

Hepati­tis is diag­nosed by a blood test at your health care provider’s office or clinic.

Can I get rid of it?

Some peo­ple can get the hepati­tis virus and then have it go away on its own while oth­ers can have it for life. If the virus goes away, there can still be per­ma­nent dam­age caused by scar­ring of the liv­er, and there can be a high­er chance of liv­er can­cer in the future.

Hepati­tis A runs its course and goes away usu­al­ly after a few weeks to sev­er­al months. Hepati­tis B goes away nat­u­ral­ly in about 90% of peo­ple; the oth­er 10% will have it for life. 80% of peo­ple with Hep C will have it for the rest of their lives. There are some treat­ments avail­able to man­age the symp­toms of the virus.


Hepati­tis A and B can be pre­vent­ed by vac­ci­na­tions. Since the 1990s, most peo­ple raised in Cana­da have been vac­ci­nat­ed for hepati­tis B in ele­men­tary school. A hepati­tis test can tell you if your body is still immune to the virus. Hepati­tis A vac­cines are gen­er­al­ly only giv­en to peo­ple who are at risk of catch­ing it. If you have any sex that involves the anus (rim­ming, or anal sex), it’s a good idea to ask your health care provider for the hepati­tis A vaccination.