Hepatitis A and E usually heal by themselves. Infections with the hepatitis B (HBV) or C virus (HCV) can become chronic. In order to reduce the burden of disease and prevent serious secondary diseases in patients, it is important to diagnose and treat people with a chronic infection. Untreated, hepatitis virus infections can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. In addition, particularly in hepatitis C, serious consequences can occur outside the liver, such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, regardless of the liver damage.
Approximately half of the affected population do not know of their hepatitis C infection. New hepatitis B infections have been reduced by over 80 per cent since the systematic vaccination of adolescents starting in 1998. A hepatitis infection develops over many years and can be asymptomatic or accompanied by unspecific symptoms. It is therefore important that general practitioners remember to suggest tests to people with an increased risk of infection. Newly diagnosed viral hepatitis infections often show considerable damage to the liver already. Early testing and treatment can prevent severe secondary diseases.