Infectious Hepatitis

Hepatitis literally refers to any inflammation of the liver. Even when restricted by the term "infectious," it has many causes, including malaria and many viruses including that of yellow fever. By convention, however, infectious hepatitis usually refers to a small group of diseases caused by several unrelated viruses, whose most obvious and most consistent symptoms are due to liver damage. Because these diseases are unrelated, except in liver involvement, they will be treated individually. Only their early undifferentiated history can be reviewed in general terms.

Even the distinction between infectious and noninfectious hepatitis is a problem. Autoimmune chronic active hepatitis will not be considered here, although there is evidence of viral involvement in triggering the autoimmune reaction. Liver cancer will be included as a late consequence of infection with hepatitis B virus, because that seems to be the main cause. Other clinically similar diseases that are not covered here are cirrhosis due to toxins such as alcohol, and jaundice due to physical obstruction of the bile duct.

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