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What You Need to Know About Hepatitis

The twenty-eighth day of July is set aside to mark World Hepatitis Day. We thought to provide important information you should know about this disease. Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is a tissue?s reaction to irritation or injury. It generally results in pain, redness and swelling.

Hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.


If it is an infectious form of hepatitis that is chronic, like hepatitis B and C, you may not have symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not occur until the damage affects liver function.

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:

?         fatigue

?         flu-like symptoms

?         dark urine

?         pale stool

?         abdominal pain

?         loss of appetite

?         unexplained weight loss

?         yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice

Chronic hepatitis develops slowly, so these signs and symptoms may be too subtle to notice.



Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses:

hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is spread by either direct contact with an infected person?s faeces or by indirect faecal contamination of food or water.

Symptoms include:

?         Fever

?         Fatigue

?         Loss of appetite

?         Vomiting

?         Abdominal pain

?         Dark urine

?         Diarrhoea

Hepatitis B

This virus can live outside of the body for at least seven days. During that time, the virus is still capable of causing infection. Hepatitis B virus can be spread through blood, urine, semen, from mother to her infant soon or right after birth. Sharp objects which have come in contact with an infected person?s blood can still put anyone at risk even after the body fluid on them appears to have dried. This includes razor blades, needles, cosmetic and hair care instruments, knives and so on.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis B can include:

?         Fever

?         Fatigue

?         Loss of appetite

?         Abdominal pain

?         Jaundice

?         Joint pain

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is most commonly spread by exposure to contaminated blood or needles. The virus can survive outside of the body for up to four days.

Symptoms for hepatitis Care similar to other types of hepatitis, and like hepatitis B, a blood test is needed for diagnosis. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C increase a person?s risk for liver cancer.

Hepatitis D

People with hepatitis B often develop hepatitis D, which is spread through contaminated blood products and unprotected sex with a person who has the disease. Hepatitis D is also known as ?delta hepatitis.'

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E virus is found in underdeveloped areas of the world where it is spread by the faeco-oral route. This occurs when food or water is contaminated by faeces from infected persons. Hepatitis E causes acute hepatitis, which usually goes away on its own. It can be more dangerous in pregnant women who are at an increased risk of liver failure and death. Hepatitis E does not cause chronic infection.


There are many forms of hepatitis including viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, and toxin-induced hepatitis, which also means that there are many ways a person can contract or develop hepatitis. The only form of hepatitis that can be spread from one person to another is viral hepatitis

Hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses are primarily transmitted via the faeco-oral route (i.e. from the anus to the mouth - for example when hands are not washed after a bowel movement), by human contact, by uncooked foods (shellfish, fruits and vegetables) and by contaminated water. This is one of the reasons why the risk for hepatitis A and E is greater in developing countries...the water is often contaminated with faecal matter or effluent, thereby contaminating everything it comes in contact with. Hepatitis A is frequently responsible for outbreaks in homosexual communities or in men having sex with men, and this secondary to oral-anal sexual contact.

Hepatitis B and D viruses are primarily transmitted via unprotected sexual relations (including oral sex and penetration, whether vaginal or anal), the sharing of contaminated syringes, blood and/or infected biological liquids.

Hepatitis B may be picked up from an infected mother during birth, this occurs much more frequently in countries endemic (high rates) for hepatitis B

Hepatitis C virus is transmitted via blood-borne contacts (the sharing of contaminated syringes, blood transfusions, infected re-usable tattoo needles and non-sterilized body piercing instruments). The risk of contracting hepatitis C infection from sexual relations is quite rare, with the exception of men having sex with men. At birth, infected mothers may pass on hepatitis C to their newborn.

Water, food or casual contact (school or work) does not transmit Hepatitis B and C.



Suspected cases of hepatitis are to be attended to by qualified health professionals. The care often involves all those who may have come in contact with the patient. Care may involve hospital admission and continuous testing and monitoring.

Antiviral medications: Can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver. These drugs are taken by mouth. Talk to your doctor about which medication might be right for you.

Liver transplant. If the liver becomes severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes the damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a matching donor.



Vaccination: Hepatitis vaccine is made from parts of the hepatitis virus. It cannot cause a hepatitis infection. The vaccine is usually given as 2, 3, or 4 shots over 1 to 6 months.

Infants should get their first dose of hepatitis vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at 6 months of age.

All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated.

The hepatitis vaccine is recommended for unvaccinated adults who are at risk for hepatitis virus infection, including:

?        - People whose sexual partners have hepatitis B

?         -Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term monogamous relationship

?         -Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease

?         -Men who have sexual contact with other men

?         -People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment

?         -People who have household contact with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus



Handwashing: This prevents the forms of hepatitis that are transmitted through contaminated food and water. When people have safe and adequate toilet facilities, the risk of faeces entering water sources is minimized. Furthermore, proper handwashing with soap and water after bowel movements and before eating is imperative upon everyone. This greatly reduces transmission.


Avoid sharing of sharp objects: In the home, school, salons and other places, needles and other sharp objects should be used once by one person and discarded safely after. In hospital settings, there are special boxes to dispose of all sharp objects. Household objects can be burned to minimize the risk of these instruments infecting others.


Health education: Sharing accurate knowledge on the spread of this disease will provide everyone with actionable practices to protect themselves from infections. Infectious diseases affect us all and as such continuous campaigns and adoption of the above forms of protection are recommended.


Written for Hellocare by Esther Anolu





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