28th of July is celebrated as world hepatitis day and Nigeria is still ridden with alarming cases of Hepatitis.
Hepatitis simply means the inflammation of the liver; an organ in the upper right part of the abdomen.
Quick tip: whenever you find 'itis' in medical terminology, the definition of that word will contain 'inflammation'. The likely follow-up question is; what is inflammation? Inflammation is the body's response to harmful insults such as injuries, microorganisms, toxins etc. As much as inflammation functions in protection, it is also the first step in healing. Quite a number of conditions can cause inflammation of the liver e.g drugs, alcohol intake, autoimmune disorders (when the body fights itself); however, viruses cause over half of all cases of hepatitis. When a virus is responsible for causing hepatitis, it is called viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis viruses include Hepatitis A virus (HAV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV), Hepatitis D virus (HDV), Hepatitis E virus (HEV), Hepatitis G virus (HGV).
Though all these viruses cause liver disease with largely similar symptoms, they differ in the mode of transmission, prevention, the severity of disease, and even geographical distribution.
Quick facts about the viruses
- Hepatitis A and E are similar in that they can be contracted to ingestion on contaminated food and water. The viruses are excreted through the feces of an infected person and transmitted when an unknowing person drinks contaminated water.
- Hepatitis B, C, and D are similar in that they are transmitted through infected body fluids during activities such as sexual contact, sharing needles and syringes, mother to child at birth. Essentially, the blood or body fluid of an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. It is important to point out that activities such as kissing, hugging, or handshaking does not spread the virus.
- Someone cannot come down with Hepatitis D without being infected with Hepatitis B. Hence, Hepatitis D is dependent on Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis B and C can cause chronic (long-term) infection and eventually cause liver cancer or permanent liver damage.
Most patients infected with HAV, HBV and HCV often show no symptoms or very mild symptoms. In others, symptoms could include:
- Loss of appetite
- nausea (feeling like vomiting)
- abdominal pain
- general body weakness
- dark urine
- diarrhea-pale feces
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
Hepatitis A: Vaccination is the best way to prevent Hepatitis A. Generally, good sanitation, good hygiene, properly cooking food will help prevent contracting Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B: Vaccination is also the best way to prevent Hepatitis B. Other preventive measures include safe sex practices, avoid sharing sharps such as needles, syringes, razors etc.
Hepatitis C: There is no vaccine presently available for HCV. The best preventive measures are to ensure safe sex practices and avoid sharing sharps. Getting tested for HCV is also important as treatment can cure those who present early to the hospital.
Hepatitis D: No vaccine currently exists for Hepatitis D. However, vaccination against Hepatitis B will prevent Hepatitis D infection Hepatitis E:
No vaccine also exists for Hepatitis E at present. Good sanitation, good hygiene, availability of clean drinking water, properly cooking food, boiling/chlorination of water, are some effective preventive strategies.
If you notice you have any of the symptoms, go to the hospital immediately for expert management.
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