What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis refers to several common diseases caused by viruses that can lead to swelling and tenderness of the liver. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C can lead to serious, permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis A -
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is contracted by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with human feces. Symptoms usually appear 15 to 5 days following exposure to the infection. In adults, symptoms develop abruptly and are associated with fever. They may include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice. Children usually have no symptoms. There has been a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A since 1992.
Hepatitis B -
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause a serious form of hepatitis. The disease is much more prevalent than HIV, the AIDS virus. The hepatitis B virus transmission is from bodily fluid exposure, which includes blood, semen, and saliva. Symptoms usually appear within 25 to 180 days following exposure. The onset of the virus is characterized by joint and muscle pain associated with non-specific fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and/or vomiting. Jaundice may occur in the acute phase. There has been a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B since 1982.
Hepatitis C -
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted by exposure to an infected person’s blood. The onset of the infection is often unrecognized and that is why it is often described as the “quiet virus.” Some people may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, and/or nausea. Currently, there is no hepatitis C vaccine available.
Cause for Concern?
People who are at risk of being infected with hepatitis B or C include health care workers, people with multiple sex partners, injection drug users, those in occupations involving exposure to blood, and people with bleeding disorders. If you received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, you are at higher risk of being infected with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B or C can even be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes or razors contaminated with infected blood, although these forms of transmission rarely occur. If you have a tattoo, body piercing, or are in close household contact with an infected person, you may be at higher risk of being infected. Routine screening of donated blood began in 1972 for hepatitis B and 1990 for hepatitis C. People who are chronically infected with hepatitis B or C may have no recognizable symptoms. You can feel and appear perfectly healthy yet still be infected with the disease and infect others. In those patients who do have symptoms, they are often subtle and non-specific and may include fatigue, malaise, and pain over the area of the liver (right-hand side underneath ribs). The only way these diseases can be positively identified is through the blood tests. If you are in doubt, get tested.
How can I learn more about hepatitis?
To find out more information about hepatitis online, go to American Liver Foundation web site at: www.liverfoundation.org .
You can call the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to get the contact information of your local hepatitis resources. You can search for contact information in the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine online database for your local hepatitis resources.