You have probably heard that eating uncooked shellfish might cause Hepatitis A, no or was it Hepatitis B? Let us understand the differences between Hepatitis A, B and C and how it can affect our health
What is Hepatitis?
It is a condition where the liver is inflamed and is commonly caused by viruses. There are other causes such as excessive alcohol intake, certain medications and drugs, toxins, autoimmune diseases, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis The 3 commonly known Hepatitis are : Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. The liver is a vital organ that fights infections, filters blood and processes nutrients. When the liver is inflamed, these functions are affected greatly.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The HAV is found in the stools and blood of an infected person. It is transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated with an infected person’s faecal matter or through direct contact with an infected person.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The HBV is found in blood and certain body fluids. It is commonly spread through sexual contact, use of contaminated needles by injections, drug abuse or from an infected mother to her baby during birth.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).The HCV is found in blood and certain body fluids. It is commonly spread through sexual contact, use of contaminated needles by injections, drug abuse
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
There are 2 types of Infections from Hepatitis – Acute and Chronic.
Acute infections – The symptoms in Hepatitis A, B and C are similar and can occur in acute infections. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), dark coloured urine, pale stools, fever, unexplained prolonged tiredness, poor appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Duration of infection may last for approximately up to 6 months. People with acute infections usually recover completely and will form an immunity to Hepatitis.
Chronic infections – symptoms may not be presented at first in people who are infected. However, when symptoms appear, it is often a sign of advanced liver disease.
Duration of infection is usually more than 6 months and in some cases if left untreated, may lead to serious complications such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.
The person who carries the Hepatitis virus is also known as a carrier and can spread the disease to others
How is Hepatitis diagnosed
There are several tests that can help with the detection and diagnosis of Hepatitis.
Screening tests to detect if the person is currently infected, had a past infection or has immunity against Hepatitis
- Anti HAV total – detects past or present infection with hepatitis A virus or there is immunity against it from e.g. vaccination.
- Hepatitis Bs Antigen (HBsAg) – detects the protein produced in the presence of the hepatitis B virus in the body. There will be high levels of this protein produced during an acute or chronic infection.
- Hepatitis Bs Antibody (anti-HBs) – detects the antibodies protective against hepatitis. The presence of these antibodies indicates either recovery from a past infection or immunity against it from e.g. vaccination.
- Anti HCV total – detects past or present infection with hepatitis C virus or there is immunity against it from e.g. vaccination.
What are the treatment options for Hepatitis
Treatment for acute Hepatitis are in general to relieve symptoms and they include bed rest and adequate hydration. Lifestyle modifications such as avoiding alcohol, high fat foods and limiting smoking are also part of the treatment plan for liver care.
Treatment for chronic Hepatitis with certain medications is available to slow down or prevent the progression of liver damage and liver failure
How to Prevent
Hepatitis A – Practise good hygiene such as proper handwashing, avoiding raw or undercooked shellfish, ice, raw fruits and vegetables especially when travelling to a developing country
Hepatitis B and C – Avoiding sharing of needles, practise safe sex.
The most effective way of prevention is to get yourself vaccinated. There are vaccinations available for both Hepatitis A and B.
There are currently no vaccine available against Hepatitis C.
For more information on vaccinations, find out here.