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Viral hepatitis is a systemic disease primarily involving the liver. Most cases of acute viral hepatitis in children and adults are caused by one of the following five agents: hepatitis A virus (HAV), the etiologic agent of viral hepatitis type A (infectious hepatitis); hepatitis B virus (HBV), which is associated with viral hepatitis B (serum hepatitis); hepatitis C virus (HCV), the agent of hepatitis C (common cause of posttransfusion hepatitis); hepatitis D (HDV), a defective virus dependent on coinfection with HBV; or hepatitis E virus (HEV), the agent of enterically transmitted hepatitis. Additional well-characterized viruses that can cause sporadic hepatitis, such as yellow fever virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, rubella virus, and the enteroviruses, are discussed in other chapters. Hepatitis viruses produce acute inflammation of the liver, resulting in a clinical illness characterized by fever, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, and jaundice. Regardless of the virus type, identical histopathologic lesions are observed in the liver during acute disease.

The characteristics of the five known hepatitis viruses are shown in Table 35-1. Nomenclature of the hepatitis viruses, antigens, and antibodies is presented in Table 35-2.

Table 35-1 Characteristics of Hepatitis Viruses
Table 35-2 Nomenclature and Definitions of Hepatitis Viruses, Antigens, and Antibodies

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