Causes and prevention of hepatitis

In old Westerns, when a character accused another of “being yellow,” it was an accusation of cowardice. In the real world, however, being yellow might be a sign you’ve developed a form of hepatitis — a viral infection that attacks the liver, the important organ that aids digestion, filters the blood, and performs a host of other body processes. In this article, we will discuss hepatitis A and E, hepatitis B and D, and hepatitis C.

Preventing Hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are short-term infections that go away without treatment. Once you’ve had one of these infections, you cannot be infected again. Hepatitis A and E infections often have no symptoms. The viruses that cause Hepatitis A and E are found in the feces of an infected person and are often spread through poor hygiene.

Preventing Hepatitis B and DThe viruses that cause hepatitis B and D are spread by contact with infected blood and certain other body fluids. Like other hepatitis infections, hepatitis B and D attack the liver and can sometimes cause serious long-term damage. Chronic hepatitis can put you at risk for other diseases, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. A hepatitis B vaccination can protect you from infection.

Preventing Hepatitis C HCV, the virus that causes hepatitis C, is primarily spread by blood-to-blood contact. Hepatitis C is the most dangerous form of viral hepatitis and is most likely to cause chronic infection — 55 percent to 85 percent of those infected with HCV will end up with chronic hepatitis C. However, most people who are infected with hepatitis C show no sypmtoms and thus might not know they’re infected.

This information is solely for informational purposes, the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequence.

Preventing Hepatitis A and E
Hepatitis A and E Infection Information
As with other hepatitis viruses, these germs specifically attack the liver, inflaming it and causing it to swell. Both HAV and HEV infections can cause jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin; also called icterus), abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and fatigue, but either can occur without jaundice (so-called anicteric hepatitis), as well.

Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are short-term infections that go away without treatment, and once you have recovered from them, you can’t get them again. The infections often have no symptoms.

HAV and HEV are found in the feces of an infected person and are often spread through inadequately sanitized water supplies. Both viruses can also be transmitted when an infected person skips washing his or her hands after using the restroom and then handles food or eating utensils.

Who’s at Risk for Hepatitis A and E?
In the developing world, 100 percent of people have been infected with HAV by the age of 10 because of the lack of adequate sanitation and sewage systems; in the developed world, as much as 50 percent of the population has had hepatitis A by the age of 50.

High-risk groups for HAV infection include people who live with an HAV-infected person, people who have had sex with an HAV-infected person, sexually active homosexual men, people with hemophilia or other blood-clotting problems, people with liver disease, drug users, travelers to countries where HAV is prevalent (information is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health Web site, www.cdc.gov/travel), and those living in areas of the world with ongoing outbreaks (visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/a/index.htm for more information).

Hepatitis E is not prevalent in the United States, but travelers to countries with inadequate water sanitation systems can run into this infection. Pregnant women, especially those in their third trimester, are at greatest risk for experiencing severe complications from HEV infection. In addition, recent information has suggested that HEV can be transmitted to people through contact with animal hosts, such as pigs.

Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis A and E
Being a diligent hand washer gives vital protection against both HAV and HEV. Wash up after you use the bathroom or change a diaper and before you prepare a meal.

Getting vaccinated against HAV is your best defense. The CDC recommends anyone older than 12 months and especially those at high risk of being in contact with HAV get the vaccine. If you come into contact with HAV and have not been vaccinated, you can receive protection from developing the disease through immune globulin, but it must be given within two weeks of contact.

There is no vaccine or immune globulin for hepatitis E, but you can protect yourself by observing safe practices for eating and drinking while traveling.

Most hepatitis B and D infections go away without treatment and don’t cause complications, but some sufferers develop chronic hepatitis. Keep reading to learn about treating and preventing hepatitis B and D.

This information is solely for informational purposes.
Preventing Hepatitis B and D

These viruses are infectious through contact with blood or certain body fluids, but not through saliva, sweat, tears, or feces. HBV can infect you by itself, but HDV can only infect people who acquire it at the same time as HBV or people who are chronically infected with HBV. Dual infections with HBV and HDV are generally worse than infections with HBV alone.

Many people, especially children, who have acute (short-term) hepatitis B will never show any symptoms. Those who do might experience jaundice, fatigue, headache, fever, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain (especially on the right side), and dark urine. Most cases of acute hepatitis B go away without specific treatment in a few weeks and don’t cause complications.

Some people (about 10 percent of recognized acute cases) go on to have chronic (long-term) hepatitis, which puts them at greater risk for liver damage and diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Contraction of HDV magnifies hepatitis B symptoms and increases the likelihood of liver damage. Medications to treat chronic hepatitis B can be used in some cases.

Who’s at Risk for Hepatitis B and D?
Those at risk include anyone in the health-care, public-safety, or other fields where there may be contact with infected blood; those who have unprotected sexual contact with an HBV-infected person or multiple partners; intravenous drug users; those who might encounter unsanitized needles through body piercing or tattooing; people who are on hemodialysis; and babies born to infected mothers. Those living with an HBV-infected person and travelers to areas where HBV is common (check the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Web site for information) also have a higher risk of infection.

Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis B and D
Avoiding HBV will keep HDV away, so kill two birds with one stone by:
Getting vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is more than 95 percent effective and lasts at least 15 years (and perhaps for a lifetime). It is recommended for all newborns and for children younger than 18 years old. Anyone who is at high risk should also get the vaccine. If you’re exposed to HBV before you finish the three-shot round of vaccinations, contact your physician; you may be given a dose of hepatitis B immune globulin.
Practicing safe sex. Don’t have sex with someone who has HBV, and if you are not in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship, use a condom every time you have sex.
Avoiding others’ blood. Don’t share needles, whether for IV drug use, a tattoo, or a piercing. You also shouldn’t share razors or toothbrushes. Health-care workers need to be very cautious when handling needles or other sharp instruments.
People with a hepatitis C infection have a very high likelihood of developing chronic, or long-term, hepatitis, which can cause serious liver damage. This information is solely for informational purposes.

Preventing Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C Infection Information
HCV is transmitted primarily through blood-to-blood contact via transfusions or contaminated needles, although it has been spread through sexual contact in rare cases. Transmission to newborn babies from their mothers can occur but is much less common than with HBV. No matter how it is acquired, hepatitis C is the form of viral hepatitis most likely to cause chronic infection. Like HBV, HCV can cause permanent liver damage.

According to experts, 55 percent to 85 percent of those infected with HCV will end up with chronic hepatitis C. HCV may linger for decades before an infected person develops symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, fatigue, and dark-colored urine. But the CDC says 80 percent of people with hepatitis C don’t experience any symptoms at all, even though the virus may be slowly invading the liver and possibly causing serious damage. Hepatitis C can be managed with infection-fighting drugs. Many people with chronic hepatitis C die with — not of — the infection.

Who’s at Risk for Hepatitis C?
Intravenous drug users are at highest risk, as are people who received blood-clotting factors that were made before 1987. Those who received an organ transplant or blood before 1992 (when better testing for HCV was made available) should be tested for hepatitis C. People who’ve had previous liver problems, babies born to infected mothers, and those who work in jobs where they might be exposed to blood are also at increased risk.

Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but if you think you might have been exposed to HCV, being tested can get you on a medication regimen early. Otherwise, avoid blood-to-blood contact, especially by steering clear of unsanitized needles (including those used for tattooing and piercing), others’ personal items that might carry blood (including razors and toothbrushes), and intravenous drug use. The Experts estimates that IV drug use accounts for 60 percent of all new cases of hepatitis C and is a major risk factor for infection with HBV.

Luckily, some hepatitis infections are quite mild and can even come and go without treatment. However, hepatitis infections can be very serious. Seek medical advice immediately if you believe yourself to be at risk for a dangerous hepatitis infection.

Source: Michele Price Mann (How stuff work)

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