Finding The Missing Millions

(The A to Z of Hepatitis) 

1 in 22 people has hepatitis globally. 

Viral hepatitis is an infectious disease that affects about 325 million people globally. It causes acute and chronic liver disease and increases your risk of developing liver cancer. According to the CDC, while the global deaths from tuberculosis and HIV are on the decline, deaths from hepatitis are increasing with over 1 million deaths annually. 

This year, the focus is on building a Hepatitis B free future. With a simple vaccination during childhood, you can be 98-100% safe from Hepatitis B. This is why our health plans cover vaccination against Hepatitis and other illnesses for children up to 5 years. 

Let’s learn a little about the types of viral hepatitis and how you can protect yourself: 

Hepatitis A 

This virus infects the liver and spreads through the blood and stool of infected people. It is easily transmitted under unsanitary conditions or places that lack potable water. Also, sharing sharps with infected people is a common route of transmission. It causes mild to moderate liver disease but can sometimes cause a serious and often fatal disease called fulminant hepatitis. 

Your best protection against Hepatitis A is vaccination and maintaining a high level of hygiene. 

Hepatitis B 

This virus is responsible for 292million out of the 325 million cases of hepatitis globally. You can see why WHO is giving it all the attention it needs. Also, this is why all our retail plans cover for the immunization in children. The best time to get immunized against hepatitis B is in childhood (before five years) because infections during these years often lead to chronic disease. Having chronic disease increases your chances of coming down with liver cancer or a severe form of liver disease called liver cirrhosis. 

The virus is transmitted majorly from mother to child during birth (perinatal transmission) or from child to child (horizontal transmission). It is commonly spread through blood and other body fluids and can survive up to 7 days outside the body. 

There is no cure currently and most people with the acute disease often recover. But those with chronic disease will end up being asymptomatic carriers, while others exhibit some mild symptoms that can be managed. The worst-hit are those who eventually progress to liver failure and liver cancer. Overall, the aim of treatment in chronic cases is the suppression of the virus. 

Your best protection is still vaccination! 

Hepatitis C 

Similar to Hepatitis B, it causes mild to serious lifelong illness. It is a blood-borne virus, transmitted through blood, sharing sharp objects and sex. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but it can be cured with treatment. Also, people with Hepatitis C should be immunized against A and B to prevent coinfection. 

Hepatitis D 

Hepatitis D and B are best friends. Hepatitis D cannot exist without B as it requires the presence of Hepatitis B to multiply in your body. Together the two form a deadly duo and can cause acute and chronic infections. The transmission is similar to Hepatitis B and your best protection against this is simple. I’m sure you guessed it already. 

Get vaccinated against Hepatitis B! 

Hepatitis E 

Hepatitis E is majorly transmitted via fecal-oral route: consuming food that has been contaminated with feces of an infected person, or through undercooked meat of infected animals. It can also be transmitted via blood products or from a pregnant woman to her baby. 

The virus usually causes a self-limiting illness that runs its course. But it can lead to fulminant hepatitis in some cases. 

In all, Hepatitis A & E are through food and contaminated water, B&D via blood and body fluids, and C through the blood. 

By Dr. Okonkwor Oyor C.

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