What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is often causes by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses: types A, B, C, D and E. These viruses cause concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential outbreaks and epidemic spread. Hepatitis leads to a large range of health problems, and even liver cancer.
July 28th is World Hepatitis Day. The goal this year is to show that “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”. Someone dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness, we cannot wait to act on viral hepatitis.
Did you know that at birth most infants will receive a Hepatitis B vaccination, and then at one to two months old they will receive a second dose, with a third dose in between 6 months and 18 months of life. Hepatitis A is a two-dose series that is usually given after one year of age. Vaccination is very important to help with this viral illness. However, there are not vaccines for every strain of hepatitis.
You might be thinking, how do I know if I have hepatitis? Viral hepatitis is diagnosed by symptoms, a physical examination, and blood tests. At times you may need an ultrasound, CT scan, or liver biopsy as well.
The three most common hepatitis infections we see in the United States are hepatitis A, B, and C.
Hepatitis A is highly contagious, but usually short lived and most healthy persons’ livers can heal within two months. This is preventable with vaccination; it is spread by eating or drinking something that is contaminated with the stool of a person who has the virus.
Hepatitis B is another vaccine preventable disease. It can lead to long term liver damage, but most healthy persons are likely to recover on 6 months. you can spread this virus without any symptoms. Pregnant mothers can pass this along to their newborn. The virus is spread by having intercourse with an infected person, sharing needles, or having direct contact with blood or body fluid of someone with the disease.
Hepatitis C is not a vaccine preventable, there is no vaccine available for this disease. This infection is usually long term and many people do not show symptoms. This can scar your liver and cause cirrhosis. It is spread by sharing dirty needles, having direct contact with infected blood or body fluids of someone with this disease, having a blood transfusion prior to 1992, it is also rare but possible to get from sexual intercourse with someone who is infected.
What can you do as a patient to stay safe? Have all vaccines for hepatitis up to date. If you are unsure if they are current, we are able to check what is called a titer for certain hepatitis vaccinations in your blood to see if you developed immunity from these diseases. If you believe you have hepatitis or have been in contact with someone, who has it schedule an appointment for a physical and lab work.
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Koff, R. S. (1998). Hepatitis a. The Lancet, 351(9116(, 1643-1649.
Tiollais, P., Pourcel, C., & Dejean, A. (1985). The hepatitis B virus. Nature, 317(6037), 489-495.