Unmasking the Hidden Epidemic: Hepatitis

a mask over a sick liver with a bandage on it on a smoke filled background with the text unmasking hepatitis written below it.

Hepatitis means injury to the liver with inflammation of the Liver cells. A virus causes five of the seven main types, including A, B, C, D, and E, as well as types X and G.
Viral Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together Hepatitis B and C causes 80% of liver cancer cases in the world. B & C are estimated to affect around 250 million people globally.

Causes and Mode of Transmission of Hepatitis

Most liver damage is caused by 3 hepatitis viruses, called Hep A, B and C. Hepatitis is also caused by alcohol, toxins and infections, and our own autoimmune process (the body attacks itself).

  • Hepatitis A – caused by consuming contaminated food or water, Anal –oral contact during sex can also be a cause. Nearly everyone who develops Hepatitis A makes a full recovery; it does not lead to chronic disease.
  • Hepatitis B – is a sexually transmitted disease and can be spread by contact with infected blood, semen, some body fluids or being bitten by someone who is infected.  A baby can become infected through his mother’s milk if she is infected. The liver swells and the patient can suffer serious liver damage due to infection resulting in cancer. For some patients, it becomes chronic (very long term or lifelong).
  • Hepatitis C – Usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease.
    Liver can swell and become damaged, but liver cancer risk is only increased in people with Cirrhosis (late scarring of the liver) but only 20% of C patients get Cirrhosis.
  • Hepatitis D – A person can only become infected with D if they are already infected with B
  • Hepatitis E – Caused by drinking water that contains the E virus. Liver swells but no long-term consequences. Infection is also possible through anal-oral sex.
  • Hepatitis X: If it cannot be attributed to the viruses of A, B, C, D or E then it’s called X – in other words, hepatitis of an unknown virus.
  • Hepatitis G: Caused by the G virus but usually no symptoms and when there are symptoms, they are very mild.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Acute Phase: Symptoms are like a mild flu and may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Slight abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

As the patient gets worse, these symptoms follow

  • Dark urine
  • Hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Light colored feces, feces may contain pus.
  • Yellow skin, whites of eyes, tongue (jaundice)

Note: Other patient outcomes depend on various factors and the type.

Prevention

  • Vaccination for A, B, & E
  • Adhering to strict hygiene guidelines includes hand washing, cooking meals properly, and washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Hep B, C & D – Practice safe sex, don’t share needles, toothbrushes, razors, manicure instruments, drug equipment, only allow well sterilized skin perforating equipment (tattoo, acupuncture).
  • Reduce alcohol intake.

Treatment

  • No treatment required for Hep A, usually clears spontaneously.
  • Hep B patients need rest, a diet high in protein and carbohydrate and in some cases drugs.
  • Treating with drugs can reduce the Hep C viral load to undetectable levels, and the person may be considered ‘cured’.
  • D & E have no effective treatment.

We recommend that if you have any of the symptoms above, you should go see a doctor. You can speak to a doctor on telemedicine via 08000432584, 08186744444 or 08001235111.

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