Hepatitis and all you need to know about it.
What is Hepatitis?
Many people mistakenly think that Hepatitis means Viral Hepatitis, and that all forms of hepatitis are contagious. Actually, the word Hepatitis is a catch-all term that refers to any inflammation of the liver — the irritation or swelling of liver cells from any cause.
What are its symptoms?
Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but often leads to yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membranes, and conjunctivae, poor appetite and malaise. Hepatitis is acute when it lasts less than six months and chronic when it persists longer. The condition can be self-limiting (healing on its own) or can progress to fibrosis (scarring) and cirrhosis.
Types and causes of Hepatitis?
Several viruses are known to cause Hepatitis. Common forms of Viral Hepatitis include Hepatitis A, B, and C:
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a virus that causes liver disease. It is most commonly found in contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is the least dangerous form of Hepatitis because individual affected by them almost always recuperate naturally. Also, it does not lead to chronic inflammation of the liver. But about 15% of people with Hepatitis A become so ill that they need hospitalization; that is why anyone at risk of infection, as well as all people with any form of chronic liver disease, should get the Hepatitis A vaccine.
Hepatitis B: This form of Hepatitis causes liver damage. Most people recover from the virus within six months, but sometimes the virus will cause a lifelong chronic infection, possibly resulting in serious liver damage.
It can spread through sex (100 times more efficient than the HIV virus), blood transfusions (mostly before 1975), and needle sharing by intravenous drug addicts. The virus can pass from mother to child at birth or soon afterward; the virus can also pass between adults and children to infect whole families.
Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C is the No. 1 reason for liver transplant. At least 80% of patients with Hepatitis C develop a chronic liver infection. It often does not show any symptoms. No vaccine is yet available to prevent Hepatitis C.
It is usually spread through contact with blood or contaminated needles, including tattoo needles. The disease can be passed on through blood transfusions. As opposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C is only infrequently spread through sex.
- Hepatitis A
Immunization of children (1-18 years of age) consists of two or three doses of the vaccine. Adults need a booster dose six to twelve months following the initial dose of vaccine. In order for the vaccine to be effective the individual has to be 15–20 years or more.
- Hepatitis B
Safe and effective vaccines provide protection against Hepatitis B for 15 years and possibly much longer. Currently, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all new-borns and individuals up to 18 years of age, and adults at risk of infection be vaccinated. Three injections over a six to twelve month period are required to provide full protection.
- Hepatitis C
No vaccine is yet available to prevent hepatitis C.
These measures would indeed be helpful when countering the disease. Further, it is always good to avoid any situation that would lead to Hepatitis.