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Hepatitis Awareness Month

Posted by Grace Youn on May 2, 2016 9:30:00 AM

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Your liver is the largest internal organ in your body. Your liver filters and processes blood, metabolizes nutrients, detoxifies harmful substances, makes blood clotting proteins, and performs many other vital functions. You should know whether you have a liver's worst nightmare. 


1. Fast Facts 

How many of facts do you think you'll know? 

  • "Hepatitis" means "inflammation of the liver."
  • More than five million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B or chronic Hepatitis C in the United States, but most do not know they are infected.
  • May 19th has been designated as a national “Hepatitis Testing Day” in the United States. 
  • Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer.
  • Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer.

2. Different Types

The most common types of viral Hepatitis in the United States are: 

  • Hepatitis A: Spreads when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.

  • Hepatitis B: Spreads when blood, semen, or certain other body fluids from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus - even in microscopic amounts - enters the body of someone who is not infected.

  • Hepatitis C: Speads when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus - even in microscopic amounts - enters the body of someone who is not infected.

The other two, uncommon types of Hepatitis are: 

  • Hepatitis D ("delta Hepatitis"): Only occurs among people who are infected with the Hepatitis B virus because HDV is an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate.

  • Heptatitis E: Similar to Hepatitis A, it is transmitted from ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, and is usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation.

3. Symptoms

Sometimes there are no symptoms of hepatitis in the first weeks after infection -- the acute phase. But when they happen, the symptoms of types A, B, and C may include the following:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • poor appetite
  • belly pain
  • a mild fever, or
  • yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
When hepatitis B and C become chronic, they may cause no symptoms for years. By the time there are any warning signs, the liver may already be damaged.

4. Prevention  

So, here's the low down on prevention: 

  • Hepatitis A: Vaccines 
  • Hepatitis B: Vaccines 
  • Hepatitis C: No vaccine
  • Hepatitis D: No vaccine (But vaccine for Hepatitis B can prevent infection) 
  • Hepatitis E: No vaccine 

If not vaccinated, avoiding the ingestion of fecal matter and/or contact with the blood, semen, and bodily fluids of people who are or may be infected with a form of Hepatitis.

5. Treatments

 What about treatments, you ask? Here's the low down on treatment:

  • Hepatitis A: Supportive treatment for symptoms 
  • Hepatitis B: 
    • Acute: No medication available; best addressed through supportive care

    • Chronic: Regular monitoring for signs of liver disease progression; some patients are treated with antiviral drugs
  • Hepatitis C: 
    • Acute: Antivirals and supportive care

    • Chronic: Regular monitoring for signs of liver disease progression; Some patients are treated with antiviral drugs including new medications that can cure Hepatitis C and offer shorter length of treatment and increased effectiveness.

  • Hepatitis D: Supportive treatment for symptoms
  • Hepatitis E: Supportive treatment for symptoms

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Sources 

Centers of Disease Control (CDC): Hepatitis Awareness Month

Centers of Disease Control (CDC): The ABC's of Viral Hepatitis

American Liver Foundation: Hepatitis Awareness Month

WebMD: A Visual Guide to Hepatitis

WebMD: Liver Function Test 

Topics: public, hepatitis awareness month

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