What is Hepatitis?
Variants, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Variants, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
As a kid in Africa, you’ve probably received several vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B. You get your first dose shortly after birth, and then every couple of months, you receive a booster until around one and a half years old.
But what is Hepatitis, and is it something you should be worried about? We cover what you need to know about the effects of the Hepatitis Virus, its causes, and how to prevent it.
- What is Hepatitis?
- What are the types of Hepatitis?
- What causes Hepatitis?
- What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
- Diagnosing Hepatitis
- Treating Hepatitis
- How to prevent Hepatitis?
- When should you see a doctor?
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver usually caused by excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications and medical conditions, and toxins in the body. It’s also caused by viruses.
Viral Hepatitis is most commonly Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. There is also Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E, which commonly occur in rural parts of the globe with contaminated water.
Hepatitis can be chronic or acute. Acute Hepatitis causes flare-ups that go away as quickly as they occur. Chronic Hepatitis causes long-term symptoms that can cause permanent damage to the liver.
Of all the viruses, Hepatitis B and C cause the most deaths.
What are the types of Hepatitis?
There are five types of viruses causing Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
1. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a food and beverage-borne virus. It’s the most easily transmitted virus in the hepatitis family, particularly to children. It causes the least damage and can be cured within 6 months.
2. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood or using contaminated needles, bodily fluids, and syringes. It causes chronic Hepatitis leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer. While there is no cure for Hep B, it will go away on its own within 6-8 weeks.
3. Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is most often transmitted from mother to child or through infected blood.
4. Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D is only found in people already infected with Hepatitis B.
5. Hepatitis E
Hepatitis E commonly occurs in areas where there is poor sanitation and little access to clean drinking water, such as informal settlements. Namibia experienced a Hep E outbreak back in 2017, with over 4000 men  between the ages of 20 and 40 contracting the virus. It spread rapidly through the communities.
What causes Hepatitis?
- Hepatitis A is caused by eating unwashed food and drinking contaminated water.
- Hepatitis B is caused by coming into contact with contaminated blood or bodily fluids. It’s typically transmitted through sexual intercourse. But it can be contracted by sharing an infected person’s toothbrush, needles, and a razor blade. A pregnant mother can also pass the virus to her unborn child during labour.
- Hepatitis C is caused by sharing infected needles or syringes.
- Hepatitis D is caused by contaminated blood. You have to have Hepatitis B to contract Hepatitis D.
- Hepatitis E is caused by ingesting water or food that contains traces of faecal matter carrying the Hepatitis E-Virus (HEV).
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
Hepatitis A, B, and C symptoms differ from each other.
You might have Hep A if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, pains, headaches, coughing, and sneezing) combined with constipation or diarrhoea and pain in your upper tummy.
You may have Hep B if you’re experiencing extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fevers, clay stools, and dark urine.
Here are the signs that you have Hepatitis C. You bleed or bruise easily, have yellow eyes and itchy skin, there’s a build-up of fluid in your abdomen, you frequently feel fatigued, and you have a poor appetite.
Hep D sufferers experience similar symptoms to Hep B. You might also notice joint pain, yellow eyes and skin, and loss of appetite.
Hep E symptoms mirror Hep A, but you’ll also appear jaundiced.
Do you have the hepatitis virus? Here’s what to expect at the hospital:
Doctors will conduct a physical exam and perform an ultrasound to determine if your liver is enlarged or swollen. We’ll also request a series of blood tests to check your liver enzymes and see whether you have Hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E. Depending on your results, we might biopsy the liver to see the extent of the damage.
Hepatitis A and E usually clear up on their own within a couple of weeks. Treatment focuses on supportive care and keeping you hydrated and well-rested. Hepatitis B usually clears up on its own. If not, your doctor will prescribe medication. Hep C is treated with anti-viral medication.
We recommend that you get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B as a child. These vaccines can help prevent Hep A, B, and D.
How to prevent Hepatitis?
Hep A – Don’t eat raw food or drink tap water in areas that are known for Hepatitis A infections. Make sure your children are vaccinated. Daycare centres are prime spaces for spreading viral infections.
Hep B – Don’t have unprotected sex or use used razor blades and needles. As a healthcare worker, take extra precautions when handling blood or dealing with someone who has chronic Hepatitis B. Get vaccinated as a child.
Hep C – While there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, you can prevent it by avoiding contact with contaminated blood. Wear gloves when handling blood or administering first aid, and never use used needles.
Hep D – Make sure you’ve had the Hepatitis B vaccine. Wear a condom during sex unless you’re in a long-term committed relationship. And don’t share used needles or razor blades.
Hep E – When traveling to areas that don’t have access to clean drinking water, make sure you drink only boiled or bottled water. Don’t purchase food from street vendors, and wash your utensils in boiling water.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have any of the symptoms listed above or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with Hepatitis, it’s best to book a doctor’s appointment. Contact Welwitschia Hospital on +264 64 218 911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, find a doctor here and book an appointment.
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