Hepatitis: Symptoms, Prevention, Spread, and Types

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A life-threatening disease is known to everyone, Hepatitis rank among the top ten list of diseases that may land us to death. Liver, being one and only detoxifying organ is severely affected by this disease. Imagine a scenario when this useful organ is no more. In such case, all the body’s metabolism will be shut down or dysfunction as the toxins will get accumulated in the body and harm other organ functions. Hepatitis is one of those infections that target the liver, damages it and takes away the life of a person. But the good news is, it can be prevented by taking certain safety measures. Discussed below is the detailed view of hepatitis including its symptoms, prevention, spread, and types. Not only read it but also acquire it to live a hepatitis-free life.

Hepatitis: Symptoms, Prevention, Spread, and Types

Contents

What is Hepatitis?

Inflammation of the liver tissues is mainly termed as Hepatitis. When hepatitis occurs in a person, some have no symptoms while some get yellow discoloration of skin, fatigue, diarrhea, stomach pain and poor appetite.

Hepatitis may be acute or chronic, that is, it may be temporary or it can affect a person for a long time. Both the conditions depend on whether it continues for less than 6 months or more than 6 months. Acute hepatitis can be resolved but the problem arrives with chronic hepatitis as it may lead to liver failure, liver cancer or scarring of the liver.

The most common cause of hepatitis is a virus. Other reasons include medications, harmful toxins, alcohol, autoimmune disorders, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Types of Hepatitis:

Hepatitis, the disease of the Liver is of 5 types.

  1. Infectious
  2. Metabolic
  3. Genetic
  4. Autoimmune
  5. Ischemic Hepatitis

Let’s look deep into its types.

1. Infectious:

Infectious hepatitis is caused by microorganisms like viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

1. Viral Hepatitis

Viral Hepatitis is the most common form of hepatitis across the world. There are 5 types of viral hepatitis caused by 5 different viruses.

  • Hepatitis A:

Hepatitis A is caused by Hepatitis A virus. The main source of Hepatitis A is contaminated food or water or the oral-fecal route. It can occur in people without any symptoms and is common in developing countries. Hepatitis A does not develop into a chronic disease.

  • Hepatitis B:

Hepatitis B is caused by Hepatitis B virus. This virus is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, infected vaginal secretion or infected semen. Intercourse with an infected person or sharing personal hygienic stuff like razor can lead to this form of viral hepatitis.

  • Hepatitis C:

The main cause of Hepatitis C is Hepatitis C virus. This form of the virus is also spread by coming in contact with infected bodily fluids like infected blood (injecting drug from the used syringe of an infected person) or through sexual contact. It is acute (temporary) but can develop into chronic (long-term).

  • Hepatitis D:

Also, known as Delta Hepatitis, Hepatitis D is caused by the Hepatitis D virus leading to a severe form of Liver disease. This form of the virus is developed in a person’s body only in the presence of hepatitis B. It means only a person suffering from the B virus is prone to develop hepatitis D.

  • Hepatitis E:

Hepatitis E virus, responsible for the spread of hepatitis E disease is basically found in slum areas where the sanitary system is very poor resulting in the contamination of water supply. HAE is a waterborne disease so, the people in those areas are always prone to this disease.

2. Parasitic Hepatitis:

Parasites are other microbes responsible for viral hepatitis. Parasites can cause symptoms of acute or temporary hepatitis. As hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, parasites like Trypanosoma cruzi (also, causes Chagas disease), Plasmodium species (malaria-causing parasites) and Leishmania species can cause inflammation of the liver.

3. Bacterial Hepatitis:

Bacterial Hepatitis caused due to certain bacteria often result in acute hepatitis or chronic liver disease. The acute form of hepatitis is mainly caused by Neisseria Gonorrhoeae (STD Gonorrhea), Brucella species, Borrelia Burgdorferi (one that causes Lyme Disease) and many other bacteria. Chronic Hepatitis is caused by Tropheryma whipplei (one that causes Whipple’s Disease) and Rickettsia species.

2. Metabolic Hepatitis:

Metabolic hepatitis is related to the dysfunction in the metabolism of the liver. It is of 2 types:

1. Alcoholic Hepatitis:

Alcoholic Hepatitis is caused due to the overconsumption of alcohol which is the main cause of Cirrhosis (a liver-based disease). It can be reversible or severe depending on the complication of the liver cirrhosis due to alcohol overdose. It does not develop suddenly as it requires years of consumption of a large quantity of alcohol.. The severity of alcohol overdose related complications can cause acute hepatitis, chronic hepatitis or liver failure.

To know how much alcohol would be good for health, read Surprising Benefits of Drinking Moderate Amount of Alcohol

2. Drug Hepatitis:

Drug Hepatitis is caused by certain chemical agents found in medicines, dietary supplements, and industrial toxins. These products cause harm to the liver cells, disrupt its metabolism and other structural changes. It can be acute or chronic and may lead to liver failure. Long-term exposure to such medications leads to the liver injury and causes hepatitis.

3. Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease:

Normally, the liver contains some amount of fat but, when it is accumulated with an excess fat, it causes fatty liver disease. The main risk factors related to this disease is obesity and diabetes. The word ‘Non-alcoholic’ in the name suggests that it is not caused due to excessive alcohols but due to certain factors like overweight, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and High levels of triglycerides.

To know more about the Liver Disease, you can spend some time reading Liver Disease: Symptoms, Types, Risk Factor, Treatment & Diet Plan

3. Genetic

Genetic Hepatitis is caused due to genetic factors that cause an abnormal build-up of protein, minerals, and iron in the liver. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a kind of genetic disorder that causes accumulation of excess protein in the liver leading to certain liver diseases. In Hemochromatosis, an excess of iron is accumulated in the liver causing Cirrhosis and in Wilson’s disease, an excess amount of copper is build-up in the liver, causing Cirrhosis and Dementia. Both Hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease are genetic diseases.

4. Autoimmune Hepatitis:

Autoimmune hepatitis is caused when our own immune system starts attacking the liver cells. This form of hepatitis can be genetic, may be triggered due to some drugs like hydralazine and nitrofurantoin is normally taken after a liver transplant, and also due to some viruses like Hepatitis A virus or measles.

5. Ischemic Hepatitis:

Also known as Shock Liver, Ischemic Hepatitis is caused when there is reduced blood supply to the liver. Conditions like heart failure, shock, and vascular insufficiency are the main reason for this form of hepatitis. If the underlying cause of these circumstances is treated successfully, Ischemic hepatitis is prevented. There are rare cases of permanent liver damage due to this kind of hepatitis.

Symptoms of Hepatitis:

Among the various forms of Hepatitis, Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common. In the below section, we will discuss the symptoms of only these 3 types.

1. Symptoms of Hepatitis A:

In most cases, symptoms do not occur but if it prevails, symptoms show up after 15-50 days since the inception of the infection. Its symptoms are similar to that of flu. The symptoms include:

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

  1. Fever, nausea and body pain (flu-like)
  2. Abdominal pain
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Weight loss
  5. Dark colored urine and light-colored stool
  6. Jaundice (yellowing of eyes)

2. Symptoms of Hepatitis B:

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

The symptoms of Hepatitis B may not occur for months, but may, later show certain signs and symptoms like:

  1. Fever
  2. Joint pain
  3. Fatigue, nausea, vomiting
  4. Stomach ache
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Dark urine and clay-colored stools
  7. Jaundice

3. Symptoms of Hepatitis C:

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

The symptoms of Hepatitis C can range from acute to chronic. These symptoms may not show up right away and take approx. 6-7 weeks to manifest themselves. However, the symptoms include:

  1. Nausea
  2. Joint pain
  3. Fever
  4. Fatigue
  5. Stomach pain
  6. Jaundice
  7. Clay-colored feces

Note: These are the symptoms of acute hepatitis C. If the virus persists in the body for more than 6 months, one may suffer from chronic hepatitis. In such cases, the symptoms manifested, may include symptoms of liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Incubation Period of Hepatitis:

The incubation period is the time lapse between getting infected by the virus and the occurrence of the first symptom. Given below is the tabulated form of the incubation period of Hepatitis A, B, and C.

Hepatitis TypeIncubation Period
Hepatitis A14-28 days
Hepatitis B1.5-6 months (4 months average)
Hepatitis C10 weeks (for Acute Hepatitis C: 6 to 10 weeks)

Vaccine for Hepatitis:

Vaccine or vaccination contains weak or dead microbes that enable the immune system to develop immunity against the pathogens. In the table find out more about the vaccines available for the Hepatitis A, B, and C.

Hepatitis TypeVaccination AvailabilityDoses (Child)
Hepatitis AAvailable2 doses in every 6 months (after completion of one year for a child or between 12-18 months)
Hepatitis BAvailable1st dose within 24 hours of childbirth. 2nd and the 3rd dose within 6 months after born.
Hepatitis CNot AvailableOne cannot prevent the disease but can reduce the chances of getting infected by Hepatitis C virus.

The WHO recommends that all children between the age group of 12-23 months should get the hepatitis A and B vaccine for long-term protection.

Hepatitis A Vaccination for Adults

For adults, hepatitis A vaccination should be given:

  1. Before traveling to areas where hepatitis is widespread.
  2. Researchers who do testing on hepatitis A are more prone to the virus.
  3. Hemophilia patients or the ones taking blood clotting drugs.
  4. People who use street, recreational or illegal drugs.
  5. Men who have sexual intercourse with men.

Hepatitis B Vaccination for Adults

For adults, hepatitis B vaccination should be given:

  1. Before traveling to hepatitis B affected areas.
  2. Healthcare workers who are exposed to human blood.
  3. Children younger than age 19 and haven’t been vaccinated yet.
  4. Having sex with a person who is infected by hepatitis B virus.
  5. Injecting street drugs or sharing the needle with an infected person.
  6. Having more than one sex partner.
  7. A person who has been evaluated with STD.
  8. MSM or Men who have sex with men.
  9. A person with HIV or end-stage kidney disease or liver disease.

What are the Preventive Measures for Hepatitis?

Prevention is must in hepatitis as it spreads through food, water, bodily fluids etc. Given below is the preventive measures to avoid each types of Hepatitis.

How to Prevent Hepatitis A?

To prevent hepatitis A, one must always maintain good hygiene by following these healthy tips:

  1. While travelling to other countries, one must not drink local water, use ice, eat raw non-veg items or raw vegetables.
  2. Avoid street foods.
  3. Prevent drinking water from an unsealed bottle.
  4. Eat properly cooked meat items.

How to Prevent Hepatitis B?

As, hepatitis B is mostly spread through body fluids, avoid:

  1. Sharing needles.
  2. If working in a healthcare, take hepatitis vaccine beforehand to prevent the body from getting affected by the virus.
  3. Avoid Alcohol.
  4. Avoid sharing razors.
  5. Avoid sharing toothpaste.
  6. Avoid having unprotected sex with multiple partners or with an infected person. Visit,  Medlife Shop to buy sexual wellness products.

Remember: These preventive tips are also recommended for Hepatitis C and D.

Treatment for Hepatitis:

Treatment for hepatitis depends on the type and stage of hepatitis. Get a detailed structure for the treatment methods of different types of hepatitis.

Treatment for Hepatitis A:

Since hepatitis A is a short-term illness and can be treated easily, certain medications and bed rest are recommended by doctors. In severe cases like vomiting and diarrhea, proper nutrition and hydration medications are suggested. Hepatitis A vaccination is also available, given mostly to children between 12-18 months, other vaccine series follow, after 6 months. For adults, the dose of vaccination depends on several factors, as mentioned above in “Vaccine for Hepatitis”.

Treatment for Hepatitis B:

Acute hepatitis B doesn’t need much attention, only antiviral drugs, proper rest, and drinking a lot of water is mostly suggested by doctors.

People with chronic hepatitis B, undergo treatment for their entire lives to prevent liver damage as well as spread of virus. Treatments include:

  1. Antiviral medications like tenofovir (Viread), adefovir (Hepsera), and entecavir (Baraclude).
  2. Interferon injections – Not suggested for pregnant ladies and children.
  3. Liver Transplant – If the liver is severely damaged, liver transplant method is suggested to replace the damaged liver with a healthy one.
  4. Hepatitis B vaccination.

Treatment for Hepatitis C:

  1. Antiviral medications to clear up the C virus from the body. A person is monitored for 12 weeks after the treatment to prevent a relapse. If a person does not suffer a relapse in the 12 weeks after treatment, he/she is deemed cured.  Advances in medical science have led to the development of new antiviral medicines for hepatitis C which gives better outcomes, fewer side effects, and lesser treatment duration. However, medication is decided based on the genotype of hepatitis C virus, the amount of liver damage and other essential tests.
  2. Liver Transplantation: In serious or chronic conditions, this method is approached.
  3. No vaccine available for hepatitis C.

Treatment for Autoimmune Hepatitis:

In Autoimmune hepatitis, a person must be on medication for at least 18-24 months. The aim of the treatment is to stop or slow the attack of the immune system on a patient’s liver. Certain medications like Prednisone and Azathioprine (under brand name Imuran) are mostly used for this purpose. But the problem with such medications is,  that they cause serious side effects like diabetes, osteoporosis (thinning of bones), HBP, glaucoma, cataracts, broken bones or Osteonecrosis and weight gain.

Doctors generally prescribe a high dosage of such medicines for the first month. This is done with the aim of suppressing the symptoms. Once the symptoms subside, the dosage of medicines is reduced. However, in some cases, remission of hepatitis can happen after a patient has been taken off drugs.

Treatment for Alcoholic Hepatitis:

  1. The best treatment for alcoholic hepatitis is to stop drinking alcohol. If one is addicted to alcohol, one should seek help immediately. Treatment course should be followed with emotional support through meditation, counselling, and support groups.
  2. In chronic cases, doctors recommend medications like Corticosteroids and Pentoxifylline (an anti-inflammatory medicine).
  3. The last option is Liver Transplant.

Treatment for Drug Hepatitis:

In such conditions, a doctor first identifies the drug causing the hepatitis. Stopping the intakes of that drug or reducing its consumption may help reduce the symptoms of hepatitis. Treatments like supportive care, medications, and the liver transplant are also recommended by experts.

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How is Hepatitis Spread? Myth vs Reality

There are several myths related to the hepatitis disease. Let’s debunk some of these myths:

1. Can hepatitis spread when a healthy person comes in contact with the spit of an infected person?

Saliva of a person is not infectious. Infection is generally caused by coming in contact with other bodily fluids like blood, vaginal secretion, or semen. However, if you are suspicious, better get a health checkup.

2. When a person commits a sin, he gets hepatitis.

Absolutely not! Hepatitis is not related to any moral or cultural belief. It is just the inflammation of the liver caused due to several factors like infection, alcohol, drugs, autoimmune disorder, and other metabolic dysfunctions.

3. Hepatitis is a genetic or hereditary disorder.

Hepatitis is not a hereditary or genetic disorder. Yes, it often gets transmitted to a newborn baby if the mother is infected by hepatitis B. Such cases can be avoided if the hepatitis B virus is detected beforehand and the vaccine is administered to the baby within 12 hours of birth.

4. Hepatitis A causes Hepatitis B disease which in turn causes hepatitis C.

No. All 3 forms of Hepatitis are caused by 3 different viruses. Although the symptoms can be similar, the mode of transmission of the virus is different with distinct clinical manifestations. However, in certain cases of hepatitis C, the vaccines for hepatitis A and B are recommended to prevent coinfection.

5. Hepatitis is the main cause of jaundice

Jaundice is caused by several liver problems. Yes, it’s true that hepatitis may cause jaundice but, considering hepatitis as the main cause is not medically accurate.

6. If a person gets hepatitis A vaccine, he is saved from other forms of hepatitis

People who are vaccinated with hepatitis A will not develop hepatitis A, however, there are chances to get affected by its other forms. Presently, vaccination is available for  HAV and HBV only.

7. If a doctor says, “You are a healthy carrier for hepatitis B”, it means that I am safe.

The word ‘healthy carrier’ is often mistaken by people and misleads them. It only means that a person is the carrier of hepatitis B or living with chronic hepatitis B but is not showing any of its symptoms. This term gives people a false sense of security which prevents them from seeking treatment,  putting their lives at a risk of developing chronic liver disease. Such people should visit a liver specialist twice a year every 6 months.

8. Hepatitis is transmitted through a kiss, handshake, sharing meals or utensils with an infected person.

As discussed earlier, Hepatitis B or C can be transmitted via bodily fluids (vaginal secretion or semen), contact with infected blood, percutaneous, and mucosal contact with infectious fluids.

9. If a mother has hepatitis B, it is not safe to breastfeed

It’s absolutely safe to breastfeed as the virus does not get transferred through breast milk. However, as a precaution, a baby must be vaccinated after birth, especially if the mother is infected.

10. Hepatitis can be transferred by mosquito bites

Not all diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes as in case of yellow fever or malaria. Hepatitis B cannot be spread through insect bites or mosquitoes as they are not efficient vectors for the virus. There are no such cases heard or proved either.

Hepatitis from Survivor Diaries:

There are thousands of stories describing the suffering of hepatitis patients. Here we have included two such stories of hepatitis.

The first story is of Mike who is a resident of Kenya. The story was published by ‘The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand’ to spread awareness. Here goes the stor:.

1. On his friend’s insistence, Mike had donated his blood in a blood donation camp. When his blood test report arrived, he tested negative for  HIV, Hepatitis A and C, and syphilis but tested positive for Hepatitis B. Mike could not figure out how did he acquire the infection. Eventually, he recalled that a year ago he displayed symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, and aches. It was later realized that in mid- 2013, Mike had undergone a circumcision. He had also undergone medical procedures to get two molar teeth removed. Since, Mike had been faithfully married to his wife for 14 years, STDs were ruled out and it was concluded he contracted the disease due to medical negligence. His wife was immediately tested for Hepatitis too, she tested negative and was given a vaccination immediately. Mike is undergoing treatment and hopes to regain his former life back

Bottom Line: Although he has recovered from the disease, Mike wanted the world to know of his story and spread knowledge to prevent this disease. From the Kenyan health report, he discovered that in the year 2014, out of 150,000 blood donors, 1200 were found to be positive in HIV test while 3000 were Hepatitis B positive. It simply means that the number of hepatitis B patients are double the count of HIV patients and this number is higher still in underdeveloped areas or nomadic pastoralism practising areas (Mike belongs to a nomadic-pastoral society). This is also due to the lack of knowledge. Therefore, he has taken this initiative to make people aware about the causes and prevention of hepatitis.

2. This is the story of a single with a 13 years old son. As she wanted to adopt a daughter of age 5-6 years, she enrolled in a special adoption program, the previous year. This adoption program was for children who were considered “unadoptable”. a year ago who was for children who are considered ‘unadoptable’. After a few months, she received a referral of a 4-year old girl who was suffering from Hepatitis B. When she asked her caseworker what exactly HBV was, they were unable to give her a satisfactory answer. So, she began researching. While researching she came across several scary stories of hepatitis B which discouraged her from adopting the girl. Then, she discovered the Hepatitis B Foundation. She mailed her queries to the foundation and received verifiable facts and statistics about the disease.

Bottom line: The mother believes that knowledge is the key to fighting with every disease and wished to thank the foundation for their efforts in spreading knowledge. It was because of their efforts that she was able to adopt a girl, who has received treatment and is cured of the disease. With doctors’ advice, she has also, got herself and her son vaccinated. She admitted later that she was scared of adopting the child. But with the knowledge, she now possesses she feels confident enough to handle the disease. She advises all potential adoptive parents to not only opt for healthy children but to expand their knowledge and adopt children who can reach their potential with a little care and treatment.

World Hepatitis Day – 28th July

World Hepatitis day is celebrated on 28th July every year to raise global awareness about Hepatitis and encourage its preventive measures and treatment. This disease affects millions of people worldwide and kills approx. 1.4 million people every year.

World Hepatitis Day 28th July

It is estimated that out of 325 million people with viral hepatitis, 290 million are unaware of their situation. A part of awareness comes from encouraging people to get tested, twice a year and seek treatment to prevent the spread of the disease. To make them take tests, one has to inform of the symptoms and their significance.

World Hepatitis Day is among the eight officially marked health campaigns by WHO. Every year, the theme on this day focuses on:

  1. Raising awareness on all forms of hepatitis.
  2. Making people aware of how hepatitis is spread.
  3. How to prevent viral hepatitis and its other forms.
  4. Making vaccines available to many underdeveloped areas.
  5. Bringing together a worldwide response to hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a disease that slowly enters the life of a person and takes it on the death road. It warns us by certain avoidable symptoms and we easily fall into its trap and ignore it. By reading this comprehensive view on hepatitis, you might have got an idea of how dangerous it could be. So, work towards preventing such cases and save your life and life of your loved ones before it ruins everything.

News on Hepatitis:

Why Hepatitis C more prevalent in Northern India?

– 7th Aug 2018

As per the report from SRL Diagnostics, Hepatitis C is 83% more prevalent in northern India. Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver which can be acute (temporary) or can progress to cirrhosis, liver fibrosis or liver cancer. There are several reasons for hepatitis, viral infection being the main cause. A total of 5 types of viruses are known to cause hepatitis: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E.

Avinash Phadke, President-Technology & Mentor from SRL Diagnostics said that there are around 400 million people in the world affected by this disease and yet it has largely been ignored by the health department until recently. Hepatitis E and A are mainly caused due to hygiene and sanitation issues while hepatitis B and C cause due to bad lifestyle and unawareness.

Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through unsafe injection practices, exposure to contaminated drug injection, sexual contact with an infected person and unscreened blood transfusion. The report also says that Hepatitis C infection is more common in middle-age groups to old age groups (31 to 60 years) while hepatitis A and E are common among adults between the age group of 16 to 30 years. Hepatitis B evenly spread among all age groups of 16-85 years.

A report shared by WHO in the year 2017 says that India has around 40 million people who are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus and 12 million chronically infected by hepatitis C. however, around 95% of people who are suffering from its chronic form are unaware of the infection and thus, succumb to liver cancer or liver cirrhosis, said by Subhash Gupta, the Chairman of Max Super Specialty Hospital (Delhi). He added that the treatment process of hepatitis gets delayed as it is diagnosed at the end stage.

A healthy and balanced lifestyle is all a person needs to fight against hepatitis which is an alarming health issue concern in India. Additionally, the expert suggested to maintain a hygienic life, avoid street foods and to be careful in salons and tattoo centers from the cuts or infection.

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