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Today is World Hepatitis Day and it is observed on July 28 every year. This year the theme for World Hepatitis Day is 'Test. Treat. Hepatitis' and it aims at achieving the following objectives globally which are - to promote universal health coverages of hepatitis services, to support hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment, to improve partnerships and funding against viral hepatitis.
What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver which is caused by a viral infection. Viruses cause many types of hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis is one exception. This occurs when your immune system attacks the cells of the liver.
Types Of Hepatitis
Viral infection of the liver is known as hepatitis and can be classified into five - A, B, C, D, and E. Different types of viruses are responsible for different types of hepatitis.
1. Hepatitis A
This type of hepatitis is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by faeces from a person infected with hepatitis A. It is most commonly caused among family members and close contacts through intimate kissing or stool (poor hand washing).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A virus accounts for 1,781 new infections per year.
2. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious bodily fluids like vaginal secretions or semen, and blood which contains the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The infection can also spread by tattooing, sharing razors, having sex, and body piercing.
About 6 to10 percent of patients with hepatitis B virus develop chronic HBV infection. This can develop an increasing risk of liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis.
3. Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) which is transmitted through direct contact with the infected bodily fluids, mainly through sexual contact, injection drug use, and blood transfusions. In the United States, hepatitis C virus is the most common blood-borne viral infection.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 16,500 new cases are reported per year.
4. Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV) which is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood, shared needles, and by sexual contact.
It is a rare type of hepatitis that only occurs in connection with hepatitis B infection. HDV can't survive on its own because it requires a protein that HBV produces, to infect the liver cells.
5. Hepatitis E
Hepatitis E is a water-borne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It mainly occurs in areas where there is poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting faecal matter that contaminates the water supply.
6. Hepatitis G
Hepatitis G (HGV) was recently discovered. The virus and its effects are still under investigation.
What Is Chronic Viral Hepatitis?
Individuals infected with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus can develop chronic hepatitis. In chronic hepatitis, the virus starts multiplying in the liver for years and the immune system is unable to eradicate the virus and it causes chronic inflammation of the liver.
Common Symptoms Of Hepatitis
If you have chronic hepatitis like B and C, you will not experience any symptoms in the beginning. The signs and symptoms will not appear until the liver function gets affected.
The signs and symptoms include the following:
- Dark urine
- Flu-like symptoms
- Pale stool
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin and eyes
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, which affects around 325 million people globally. They are also one of the leading causes of liver cancer, causing 1.34 million deaths every year.
Who Is At Risk Of Viral Hepatitis?
People who are at a higher risk of developing hepatitis are intravenous drug users, workers in the health care sectors, sewage and water treatment workers, HIV patients, people with hemophilia (a disorder in which a blood doesn't clot normally).
Diagnosis Of Hepatitis
The diagnosis of hepatitis is totally based on symptoms and physical findings and also by blood tests for liver enzymes, viral antibodies and viral genetic materials.
First, your doctor will examine your medical history to determine any risk factors you may have for hepatitis.
Liver function tests are done by using blood samples to determine how efficiently your liver works. Ultrasound test is also done where the doctor takes a close look at your liver and nearby organs.
How Is Hepatitis Treated Or Prevented?
Depending on the type of hepatitis you may have, treatment options are determined.
For Hepatitis A, treatment isn't required because it's a short-term illness. If you experience vomiting or diarrhoea, follow your doctor's orders for nutrition and hydration. The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent the infection. Children between the age of 12 to 18 months and even adults can receive the vaccination.
- Chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medicines. This form of treatment can be costly because it is continued for several months or years. Regular medical evaluations are required to monitor whether the virus is responding to the treatment or not. This infection can also be prevented with vaccination.
- Chronic hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines. There is no vaccination for hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting the vaccination for hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis E is often acute and people with this type of infection are advised to get plenty of rest, get enough nutrients, drink lots of fluids and avoid alcohol.
In addition, take extra precautions to prevent exposure to another person's blood, other bodily secretions (stool, vomit) and semen which will help prevent the spread of all viruses.