Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It's usually the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.
It is estimated that around 39,000 people across Scotland are chronically affected by hepatitis C – with just under half not yet aware of this – while hepatitis B affects approximately 9000 people.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread in the blood of an infected person. It is usually spread from infected pregnant women to their babies, or from child-to-child contact.
In rare cases, it can be spread through unprotected sex and injecting drugs.
Hepatitis B is uncommon in the UK. Most cases affect people who became infected while growing up in part of the world where the infection is more common, such as southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most adults infected with hepatitis B are able to fight off the virus and fully recover from the infection within a couple of months.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus and is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It's usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
In the UK, it's most commonly spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs.
Poor healthcare practices and unsafe medical injections are the main way it's spread outside the UK. Hepatitis C often causes no noticeable symptoms, or only flu-like symptoms, so many people are unaware they're infected.
Around 1 in 4 people will fight off the infection and be free of the virus. In the remaining cases, it'll stay in the body for many years. This is known as chronic hepatitis C and can cause cirrhosis and liver failure.