Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver
The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
Types of the virus
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hep A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hep B, C and D usually occur as a result of contact with infected blood, sweat, saliva or urine. Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products or using contaminated equipment and for hep B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
Here are some key points about hepatitis
- The five main types of hepatitis are caused by viruses.
- Globally, around 250 million people are affected by hep C and 300 million people are estimated to be hep B carriers.
- Hep A is caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
- Then, Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease.
- Also, Hep C is commonly spread via direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease.
- An individual can only become infected with hep D if they are already infected with hep B.
- A person can become infected with the hepatitis E virus (HEV) by drinking contaminated water.
- Hepatitis that cannot be attributed to one of the viral forms of the disease is called hep X.
- Hep G is another type of hepatitis caused by a specific virus (HGV).
- The initial symptoms of hepatitis are similar to those of flu.
- Acute infection may occur with limited or n symptoms, or may include symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Preventives measures for hepatitis
To reduce the spread of hep A and E. If you’re in a place where you’re not sure things are clean, boil water. Cook all food well and peel all fruit.
If you’re a health care worker or caregiver for someone who has a contagious form of hepatitis, take extra steps to stay clean. Wash your hands, utensils, bedding, and clothes with soap and hot water.
To prevent the spread of hep B, stay away from the blood or body of someone who has it. That means no kissing or sex. Don’t share razors, scissors, nail files, toothbrushes, or needles, either.
If you plan to travel to countries where hepatitis is widespread, get protected. You can get vaccinations for hep A and B.
Kids who live in places with a lot of hep A should get that vaccine. There isn’t a shot for hep C.
There’s also a shot called immune globulin that may prevent infection from some hep A and hep B after you’re exposed. But you have to get it within a couple of weeks. If you think you’ve been exposed, get immune globulin and vaccinations for the viruses as soon as possible.