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A group of infectious diseases common in less developed countries but also found in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Hepatitis A and B, which attack the liver, are the most commonly known viruses, but there are also hepatitis C and D as well as hepatitis E, a waterborne virus found primarily in poorer countries. Only hepatitis B, C and D cause chronic (lifelong) and serious infections.

Children in the United States are routinely immunized against hepatitis B in the first year of life. Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended in some states, such as Texas, where there is a high incidence of the disease.

Hepatitis B. Since 1991 in the United States, all infants should have been immunized at birth. Thus, routine preadoption screening of children is not recommended unless there are medical risk factors (for example, the mother is a known hepatitis B carrier or she has a history of intravenous drug use or there is known sexual abuse to the child).

Hepatitis C. The American Academy of Pediatrics has published screening guidelines for children. Most children to be adopted should not fall in the risk categories, such as a blood transfusion occurring before 1992 or known maternal infection.

Hepatitis D. Testing for this virus is required only in people who are known to be chronically infected with hepatitis B.


There is no cure for any form of chronic hepatitis at present but there are treatments, such as the injection of interferon and other medications. The individual should be under the care of a medical doctor. The progress of chronic hepatitis B, C or D is generally slow, occurring over decades.

Excellent sources of information on hepatitis are the following:

American Liver Foundation
1425 Pompton Ave.
Cedar Grove, NJ 07009
1-800-GO LIVER (1-800-465-4837)

Hepatitis B Foundation
700 E. Butler Ave.
Doylestown, PA 18901 (215) 489-4900

Hepatitis C Foundation
1502 Russett Dr.
Warminster, PA 18974
(215) 672-2606

Hepatitis Foundation International
30 Sunrise Terrace
Cedar Grove, NJ 07009-1423
(800) 891-0707

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Hepatitis Branch, Mailstop G-37
1600 Clifton Rd. NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Toll-free hotline: 1-888-4 HEP-CDC (1-888-443-7232)

Find more information on hepatitis

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