Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E

There is a vaccine against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine against hepatitis C. Screening for HBV and HCV is recommended for certain at-risk individuals.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The liver performs vital functions for the body such as: 

  • processing nutrients from the digestion process
  • the detoxification of toxic substances (medicines, alcohol)
  • supporting immunity.

Hepatitis is said to be “acute ” if it is recent (less than 6 months) and “chronic ” if it persists for more than 6 months.

There are several types of hepatitis. Certain types of hepatitis are easily cured, whereas others can develop into chronic illnesses with a risk of complications.

What are the different types of hepatitis?

There are 2 categories of hepatitis:

  • viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, D, E)
  • non-viral hepatitis (“toxic” hepatitis linked to substances that are toxic to the liver such as alcohol and medicines and autoimmune hepatitis).

Viral hepatitis varies according to the virus concerned:

  • hepatitis A virus (HAV), the least serious
  • hepatitis B virus (HBV), the most common and the most contagious
  • hepatitis C virus (HCV), the most insidious
  • hepatitis D virus (HDV)
  • hepatitis E virus (HEV)

DID YOU KNOW? The hepatitis C virus was only discovered in 1989. Until this discovery, hepatitis C was called “non-A, non-B hepatitis”.

Summary of the types of viral hepatitis


Hepatitis A (and E)

Hepatitis B (and D)

Hepatitis C


  • Ingestion of contaminated food or water
  • Sexual activity
  • Contaminated blood
  • From mother to child
  • Contaminated blood
  • Injecting drugs



  • Often asymptomatic or with a fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice
  • Often asymptomatic or fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice
  • Often asymptomatic or fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice



  • Cirrhosis or cancer of the liver
  • Cirrhosis or cancer of the liver


  • No treatment
  • Medical treatment: recovery in 90% of cases
  • Medical treatment: recovery in 75% of cases


  • Spontaneous recovery: the virus disappears on its own
  • Spontaneous recovery: 10% of cases evolve into chronic hepatitis
  • 70 to 80% of cases evolve into chronic hepatitis


  • Vaccine
  • Vaccine
  • No vaccine

In conjunction with the Laboratoire Clinique de Saint-Luc (Saint Luc Clinical Laboratory) — UCL Brussels, Sciensano hosts the National Reference Centre for the hepatitis B, C, D, and E viruses, which analyses the viral strains of hepatitis. Sciensano also carries out epidemiological surveillance of the different types of viral hepatitis in Belgium and monitors the quality of the vaccines.

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