Did you know that hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world? You might be thinking, “I’m not even 100% of what hepatitis is.” It’s inflammation of the liver. It can be short-term in some cases or lead to chronic infection and disease in others. With World Hepatitis Day approaching on July 28th, everyone needs to know how to protect themselves from infection.
There are five main types — A, B, C, D and E. According to the World Health Organization, they make up two categories of causes.
Type B (HBV) spreads through exposure to infective blood, semen or other bodily fluids. Exposure could be through sexual contact, sharing injection equipment or from mother to baby at birth.
For most, HBV is an acute, short-term illness. Yet, some do suffer from long-term chronic infection. For example, 90% of infants infected at birth become chronically ill. In contrast, only 2 to 6% of adults experience lasting effects.
The best way to avoid contracting this illness is through vaccination.
Type C (HCV) is mostly a blood-borne virus. Like HBV, it results from sharing needles and drug-injection equipment. There’s no vaccine available. So it’s best to avoid activities like those mentioned above, which put a person at risk.
And the risk is great. 70 to 85% who become infected with this type become chronically infected. Types B and C often lead to serious health issues including liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Then there’s type D (HDV), which also results from contact with bodily fluids. But, a person must have HBV already to contract this. A vaccination for HBV would simply be extra protection since HDV is uncommon in the United States.
Type A (HAV) is highly contagious. It’s usually transmitted through food or drink contaminated with fecal matter. Unlike the types discussed so far, type A is always short-term. Additionally, the antibodies produced in response to this virus last for a lifetime. Once a person has gotten over an HAV infection, they can never be reinfected.
Type E (HEV), like Hepatitis A, does not lead to chronic infection. Currently, there is no vaccination. However, it is very rare in the United States and more common in areas of the world with poor sanitation. It is often linked to water supply that’s contaminated with even small amounts of fecal matter.
In some cases, infected individuals have no symptoms at all. In other cases, they may experience:
- Dark urine
- Severe abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes due to the liver failing to process correctly)
- Lack of appetite
No matter the type, having hepatitis is not pleasant. What can you do to avoid getting it? As mentioned briefly before:
– Get vaccinated
– Wash your hands frequently, after using the restroom and after coming in contact with bodily fluids
– Avoid potentially unclean food or drink
– Avoid sexual contact with individuals who have hepatitis
– Avoid drug use and sharing syringes, needles and so onBy being cautious about what and who you come into contact with, you can reduce your risk. But what if, eventually, there was no risk at all? It is the goal of NOhep to eliminate types B and C completely by 2030. This global movement consists of 194 governments that have adopted the World Health Organization’s Strategy on Viral Hepatitis.
How can you help to wipe out this dreadful condition? You can take part in the #ShowYourFace photo campaign accompanied by an I AM statement. In this way you can spread awareness and encourage others to join the fight against hepatitis!