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What is Hepatitis

Video 7 of 31
1 minute
English, Español
English, Español
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In this lesson, we're going to begin to dig into the various types of hepatitis, of which, you'll learn about in more detail in subsequent lessons. Also in this lesson, we'll provide you with some hepatitis statistics and important information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the three most common types of hepatitis, and at the end of the lesson, we'll go over some medical definitions that you'll encounter in this course.

The short definition of hepatitis is: Inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can merely be a self-limiting condition – an illness or condition which will either resolve on its own or which has no long-term harmful effect on a person's health – or it can progress into other health problems like fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis of the liver, and liver cancer.

The Five Types of Hepatitis

There are five types of hepatitis and some of them are more common than others. The five types, thankfully, are referred to with letters, rather than long, impossible to pronounce medical terms. Those types are A, B, C, D, and E.

Pro Tip #1: The important takeaway from this lesson is this – hepatitis is a serious concern and should be taken seriously. Hepatitis can lead to illness and even death. And it has the potential for outbreaks, as in spreading in an epidemic way.

Hepatitis B and C are likely the types of hepatitis you've heard the most about, as these are the two most common types. Hepatitis B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people around the world, and together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

What Causes Hepatitis?

The most common cause of hepatitis are the hepatitis viruses themselves. However, coming into contact with these viruses isn't the only way you can contract hepatitis. Other possible causes include:

  • Getting other infections
  • Ingesting toxic substances like alcohol and certain drugs
  • Having an autoimmune disease
  • Ingesting contaminated food or water (Hepatitis A and E)

Hepatitis Statistics in the United States

According to the CDC, these are the number of cases reported of Hepatitis types A, B, and C in the U.S. for the year 2017.

Pro Tip #2: Acute simply means sudden, severe, or short term, while chronic means long-lasting or long-term. These are terms you'll hear often throughout this course.

  Acute Chronic

Hepatitis A

6700 cases not applicable
There is a vaccine for this type of Hepatitis and the main mode of transmission is the oral ingestion of fecal matter, or in other words, not washing properly after using the bathroom.

Hepatitis B

22,200 862,000
There is also a vaccine for Hepatitis B and the main causes are through sex and exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Hepatitis C

44,700 2.4 million
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C and the main cause of the disease is by coming into contact with a bloodborne pathogen.

A Word About Definitions in this Course

As you're a body artist and not a medical doctor, nurse, or paramedic, we don't expect you to know the definitions of all the words you'll encounter in this course. However, knowing a few important ones could mean the difference between properly ingesting the information and glossing over it and retaining very little.


Blood refers to not only human blood, but also human blood components, and products made from human blood.

Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne Pathogens refers to the pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).


Contaminated refers to the presence, or the reasonably anticipated presence, of blood or other potentially infectious materials on an item or surface.

Contaminated Sharps

Sharps refers to any item that can penetrate the skin including, but not limited to, needles, scalpels, broken glass, etc. Contaminated sharps are those sharp items that have been contaminated.


Decontamination refers to the use of physical or chemical means to remove, inactivate, or destroy bloodborne pathogens on a surface or item to the point where they are no longer capable of transmitting infectious particles and the surface or item is rendered safe for handling, use, or disposal.

Engineering Controls

Engineering Controls refers to certain controls (sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems) that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace.

Exposure Incident

Exposure Incident refers to specific eyes, mouths, other mucous membranes, non-intact skin, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that results from the performance of an employee's duties.


Parenteral refers to the act of piercing mucous membranes or the skin barrier through such events as needlesticks, human bites, cuts, and abrasions.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment is specialized clothing or equipment worn by an employee for protection against a hazard. General work clothes (uniforms, pants, shirts or blouses) not intended to function as protection against a hazard are not considered to be personal protective equipment.

Regulated Waste

Regulated Waste refers to liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials.

Source Individual

Source Individual refers to any individual, living or dead, whose blood or other potentially infectious materials may be a source of occupational exposure to the employee. Examples include, but are not limited to, hospital and clinic patients; clients in institutions for the developmentally disabled; trauma victims; clients of drug and alcohol treatment facilities; residents of hospices and nursing homes; human remains; and individuals who donate or sell blood or blood components.


Sterilize refers to the use of a physical or chemical procedure to destroy all microbial life including highly resistant bacterial endospores.

Work Practice Controls

Work Practice Controls refers to controls that reduce the likelihood of exposure by altering the manner in which a task is performed (prohibiting recapping of needles by a two-handed technique).