Hepatitis: All You Need to Know

Jul 20, 2019 | Blog, Did you know?, Hepatitis, Vaccines

Inflammation of the liver is called Hepatitis. Usually, it is caused due to viral infection, but there can be other possible causes too like autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis due to drugs, medications, alcohol and toxins.

Based on the type of viruses, there are 5 different types of viral hepatitis:

Hepatitis A:

It is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually acute and short-term disease. It spreads by consuming food or water contaminated by the stool of an infected person.

Hepatitis B:

It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B spreads through contact with infectious body fluids such as vaginal secretions, semen or blood containing the virus. Having sex with an infected person, contaminated syringes or sharing a razor with an infected person can increase the risk of getting infected. It is estimated by the CDC that worldwide, around 350 million people live with Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes Hepatitis C. it is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood through contaminated injections or blood transfusion. Sexual transmission can also happen, but it is less common. There is no vaccine for HCV. However, Hepatitis C can be cured.

Hepatitis D:

It is a serious Liver infection caused by Hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is transmitted through contact with infected blood. It is a very rare form of hepatitis and it only occurs along with Hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis E:

It is a waterborne disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV). It is mainly found in areas with poor drainage and sanitation Infection occurs due to ingestion of food or water contaminated with stool of infected person. Cases of hepatitis E have been reported in Central America, Africa and Middle East Asia.

What are the common symptoms of Hepatitis?

If you have chronic form of Hepatitis like Hepatitis B or C, there may not be any symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not appear until the infection affects the liver function.

In the case of acute Hepatitis, symptoms may include:

  • flu-like symptoms
  • fatigue
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine and pale stool
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice

How is Hepatitis treated?

Treatment depends on the type of hepatitis and whether the infection is acute or chronic.

Hepatitis A:

It is a short-term infection that’s why it usually doesn’t require treatment. The doctor may recommend bed rest if symptoms are severe in nature. In case of vomiting and diarrhea, proper hydration and nutrition has to be maintained. Vaccination is the best way to prevent Hepatitis A. Most children get vaccinated between 12 to 18 months of age. Hepatitis A vaccine is also available for adults.

Hepatitis B:

Hepatitis B is a chronic infection and is treated with antiviral medications for several months or years. It also requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to determine if the treatment is effective or not. Hepatitis B can be easily prevented by a vaccine. The CDC recommends that all newborns should get vaccinated for Hepatitis B. Vaccine is also available for adults.

Hepatitis C:

It is treated with Antiviral medications. People who develop liver cirrhosis or liver disease due to Hepatitis C may require a liver transplant. Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis D:

There is no antiviral medication available for Hepatitis D. It can be prevented by getting vaccinated for Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis E:

The infection is often acute and it resolves on its own. There is no specific treatment available for Hepatitis E. Infected people are advised to drink plenty of fluids, take adequate rest and avoid alcohol.

Vaccination:

Vaccines are available for preventing Hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A vaccine:

The vaccine is usually given in two doses. A booster shot is given six months after the first shot. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends hepatitis A vaccine for:

  • One-year-old or older children who didn’t receive the childhood vaccine
  • Infants ages 6 to 11 months travelling internationally
  • People in direct contact with patients who have hepatitis A
  • Lab technicians who may come in contact with HAV
  • People travelling to parts of the world where hepatitis A is common
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who use drugs
  • People with blood clotting disorders
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • Anyone willing to get vaccinated
  • If you’re worried about your risk of hepatitis A, talk to your doctor vaccination.

Hepatitis B vaccine:

According to WHO all infants should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. Routine infant immunization against hepatitis B has increased globally with an estimated coverage (third dose) of 84% in 2017. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) report of 2015-2016, only 62.8% of children age 12-23 months received 3 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine (%).

Also, all children and adolescents below 19 years of age who have not got the vaccine should also be vaccinated.

Hepatitis B vaccine is highly recommended for adults who are at risk for hepatitis B virus infection, like:

  • People who have sexual relationships with many partners
  • People whose sex partners have Hepatitis B
  • Men having sexual relationships with other men
  • Persons seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases
  • People who have close contact with anyone infected with hepatitis B
  • People who share syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
  • Health care workers at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids
  • Victims of sexual assault or abuse
  • People with chronic liver disease, HIV infection, kidney disease or diabetes
  • Travellers to countries with increased rates of hepatitis B
  • Anyone who wants to get vaccinated against Hepatitis B

According to Dr CMA Belliappa of RxDx, one can get infected while travelling to new places, no matter how healthy one is. He recommends that one should meet his/her physician a few weeks before one travels abroad, to discuss what vaccines one need before travelling. According to Dr Belliappa, Hepatitis A risks are higher in developing countries and rural areas because of differences in sanitary conditions, water sources and immunization covered.

Both Hepatitis A and B vaccines are available at RxDx Multispeciality Clinic. If you want to protect your family from Hepatitis A or B, talk to a physician or GP at RxDx about Hepatitis vaccination.

Compiled By,
Dr Manjari Bansal– Content Writer, RxDx
Inputs given by,
Mr Ashwani Sinha – Chief Impact Officer, RxDx
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