Hepatitis is a liver inflammation caused by various infectious and non-infectious agents, with potentially fatal health consequences. There are five main strains: A, B, C, D, and E, each differing in transmission, severity, distribution, and prevention methods. Hepatitis B and C are major causes of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and related deaths, affecting approximately 354 million people worldwide. The symptoms may vary, ranging from a mild or asymptomatic to severe, including fever, malaise, loss of appetite, jaundice, and liver complications. These days, vaccination, combined with comprehensive strategies, holds the potential to prevent millions of premature deaths by the year 2030.
Types of Hepatitis:
- Hepatitis A (HAV): Acute, short-term disease. More common in low- and middle-income countries with poor sanitation. While most cases are mild, severe cases can lead to liver failure. To date, vaccination is available for the prevention HAV.
- Hepatitis B (HBV): A viral infection of which long-term infection can become chronic with the development of cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Prevention is possible through vaccination, and it is often included in routine childhood immunization programs in many countries.
- Hepatitis C (HCV): Common bloodborne viral infection. HCV causes no noticeable symptoms, or at most flu-like. Usually, long-term. As to-date, there is no vaccination available, however, it can be cured with antiviral medications.
- Hepatitis D (HDV): A rare form that occurs exclusively in association with hepatitis B infection. HDV causes liver inflammation but it can only be contracted in the presence of an existing hepatitis B infection. Thus, a routine vaccination of hepatitis B also provides protection against future hepatitis D infection.
- Hepatitis E (HEV): Waterborne disease found in areas with poor sanitation. Typically, it is acute and spreads through contaminated water. Particularly dangerous for pregnant women as they are at the higher risk of severe complications, such as acute liver failure, fetal loss, and mortality.
Prevention of Hepatitis:
- Get recommended routine vaccination for hepatitis A and B.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Practice safe sexual activity to prevent transmission of hepatitis B and C.
- Avoid sharing personal items (toothbrush, razors, nail clippers, etc.) that may potentially have blood and/or bodily fluids.
- Choose sterile establishments when getting tattoos and piercings.
- Ensure all medical procedures adhere to infection control measures.
- Get safe blood transfusions from reliable sources.
- Exercise travel precautions when visiting high-risk regions.
Adhering to these measures lowers the risk of hepatitis and promotes improved liver health. Early prevention plays a crucial role in managing and stopping the spread of hepatitis.