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Symptoms are usually mild, especially in children, and generally appear between 2 - 6 weeks after exposure to the virus. Adult patients are more likely to have fever, jaundice, nausea, fatigue, and itching that can last up to several months. Stools may appear chalky grey and urine will appear darkened.
Acute Hepatitis B. Many people with acute hepatitis B have few or no symptoms. If symptoms appear, they tend to occur 6 weeks to 6 months (most commonly 3 months) after exposure and be mild and flu-like. Symptoms may include mild fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, or muscle or joint aches. Some patients develop dark urine and jaundice (yellowish tinge to skin).
Symptoms of acute hepatitis B can last from a few weeks to 6 months. Even if people infected with hepatitis B have no symptoms, they can still spread the virus.
Chronic Hepatitis B. While some people with chronic hepatitis B have symptoms similar to those of the acute form, many people can have the chronic form for decades and show no symptoms. Liver damage may eventually be detected when blood tests for liver function are performed (see Diagnosis section). [For more information, see In-Depth Report #75: Cirrhosis.]
Most patients with hepatitis C do not experience symptoms. Chronic hepatitis C can be present for 10 - 30 years, and cirrhosis or liver failure can sometimes develop before patients experience any clear symptom. Signs of liver damage may first be detected when blood tests for liver function are performed.
If initial symptoms do occur, they tend to be very mild and resemble the flu with fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, headaches, and abdominal pain. People who have symptoms usually tend to experience them about 6 - 7 weeks after exposure to the virus. Some people may not experience symptoms for up to 6 months after exposure. People who have hepatitis C can still pass the virus on to others even if they do not have symptoms.
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