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Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, autoimmune conditions, reactions to certain drugs, heavy alcohol use, and other toxins.
Hepatitis also refers to a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the five identified infections are caused by viruses labeled A, B, C, D, and E. Each virus has different routes of transmission and different prognoses.
All of these viruses cause acute, or short-term, viral hepatitis. The hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can also cause chronic hepatitis, in which the infection is prolonged, sometimes lifelong. Chronic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.