Infection of the liver
Each of the hepatitis viruses is different, but they all share a target: the liver. The liver performs more than 500 vital functions in your body. Many of the liver’s functions involve cleansing blood, fighting infection, and storing energy. But hepatitis threatens the liver’s ability to function.
The main hepatitis viruses fall into five different types: A, B, C, D, and E. The most common types are A, B and C. Hepatitis B and C present more serious risk to the patient.
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. Hepatitis B & C are viral infections that attack the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. It is potentially life threatening and can cause liver cancer or liver cirrhosis
The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive for at least 6 months).
Approximately 780 000 persons die each year from hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis B is an important occupational hazard for health workers.
However, it can be prevented by currently available safe and effective vaccine.
Prevention of Hepatitis:
A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV. The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
Hepatitis B is spread by percutaneous or mucosal exposure to infected blood and various body fluids, as well as through saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids.
You may get hepatitis B if you:
Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized.
Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
Feeling very tired.
Not wanting to eat.
Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
Diarrhea or constipation.
Muscle aches and joint pain.
Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice).
Other possible symptoms are bowel movements that appear gray in color
Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
A small subset of persons with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure which can lead to death. In some people, the hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Ascites (the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, causing abdominal swelling), caused by liver cirrhosis
More than 90% of healthy adults who are infected with the hepatitis B virus will recover naturally from the virus within the first year. Children less than 6 years of age who become infected with the hepatitis B virus are the most likely to develop chronic infections.
A number of blood tests are available to diagnose and monitor people with hepatitis B. They can be used to distinguish acute and chronic infections.
Who is at risk for chronic disease?
The likelihood that infection with the virus becomes chronic depends upon the age at which a person becomes infected. Children less than 6 years of age who become infected with the hepatitis B virus are the most likely to develop chronic infections:
80–90% of infants infected during the first year of life develop chronic infections;
30–50% of children infected before the age of 6 years develop chronic infections.
<5% of otherwise healthy persons who are infected as adults will develop chronic infection;
20–30% of adults who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Therefore, care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with drugs, including oral antiviral agents. Treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival.
For speed up recovery: rest and sleep enough. Avoid alcohol, pain killers and cold remedies till your liver functions normally again. Avoid contact with persons who might have infections like TB. Since your liver is ill, your immune system is weak, and you are more susceptible to contract other infections as well. Eat healthy – avoid rich foods and limit your protein intake. Opt for fat-free products.
The hepatitis B vaccine is the mainstay of hepatitis B prevention. WHO recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours.
High risk groups may acquire the infection and they should also be vaccinated. They include:
People who frequently require blood or blood products
Recipients of solid organ transplantations
People interned in prisons
People who inject drugs
Household and sexual contacts of people with chronic HBV infection
People with multiple sexual partners
Health-care workers and others who may be exposed to blood and blood products through their work
Travellers who have not completed their hepatitis B vaccination series, who should be offered the vaccine before leaving for endemic areas.
If you need more information on Hepatitis, you can chat to an on-line facilitator on the LIVE CHAT. You may stay anonymous and the service is free.