- Hepatitis is an inflammation, or swelling of the liver.
What Causes Hepatitis? Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
What is the difference between Hepatitis A, B, and C? Hepatitis A, B, and C are all 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 Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces of an infected person. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A. It was developed in 1995.
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B is the most serious type of viral hepatitis and is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The hepatitis B virus is spread through direct contact with infected blood as well as most bodily fluids. An estimated 2 billion people have been infected at some point and about 350 million people across the world continue to carry the chronic infection and is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. Between 500,000 and 700,000 people die each year. Hepatitis B is the 10 th leading cause of death worldwide. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B. One billion have been vaccinated since the vaccine was developed in 1982.
Hepatitis C Hepatitis C is a serious viral liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread by direct contact with infected blood. 130 to 170 million people are estimated to be chronically infected and three to four million persons are newly infected each year. Hepatitis C is a silent killer as many who have it do not show symptoms for years and therefore do not know that they are infected. Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. 15% to 30% of people clear the virus completely in the acute stage. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but treatment can effectively clear the virus in over half of the cases. Treatment can last 6 to 12 months.
Prevention Frequent hand washing. Hepatitis is spread through blood transfusions, medical or dental procedures in foreign countries, infected needles, sharing straws razors or toothbrushes, tattooing and body piercing. Get vaccinated especially if traveling overseas to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or Central and South America. Anyone with lifelong liver problems should be vaccinated.
References World Hepatitis Alliance: http://www.aminumber12.org/default.aspx Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/
Hepatitis B and C kill TEN TIMES more people than HIV every year.
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