World Hepatitis Day is observed every year on July 28 all around the world. World Hepatitis Day aims to raise global awareness for viral hepatitis. It encourages people to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease to save lives. This awareness campaign is crucial because there are 300 million people around the world living with viral hepatitis that do not know it. Left untreated, hepatitis can cause such severe damage that it leads to death.
What Is Viral Hepatitis? Educate Yourself During World Hepatitis Day
Viral hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the liver. Inflammation can be progressive and cause scarring. Over time this scarring can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver cancer. There are five main types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. Each form of hepatitis is distinct. Certain types of hepatitis are more prevalent in different parts of the world. It is important to note the difference between viral hepatitis and other forms of hepatitis. Some are caused by non-viral factors, like autoimmune disease, alcoholism, or drugs. Every year, over a million people around the world die from viral hepatitis.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is also called infectious jaundice. It is unique compared to the other forms of hepatitis because of the way it is contracted. Hepatitis A spreads through contaminated food. It can also spread from contact with a person infected with the virus. Hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of HAV. Unlike other forms of hepatitis, HAV causes acute inflammation but not chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is short term, whereas chronic can be lifelong.
As a result of Hepatitis A, symptoms can include fatigue, fever, vomiting, pain, jaundice, and more. In rare cases, the inflammation can cause temporary loss of liver function. This requires a hospital stay for treatment and observation. The majority of HAV cases go away without any serious problems or permanent liver damage. Doctors recommend that people at a higher risk get the hepatitis A vaccine. It is a good idea to get vaccinated if you are traveling to a place where hepatitis A is common. You should also receive the vaccine if you may have contact with someone with hepatitis A.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B (HBV) spreads through blood and other bodily fluids. HBV is acute for most, but becomes chronic in around 15% of cases. Chronic HBV occurs in cases where the virus is spread from mother to baby during childbirth. It also occurs when the virus is contracted during childhood. Chronic HBV occurs when the body cannot get rid of the virus all the way. Chronic HBV can cause damage to the liver over time. This damage can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, and other serious illnesses.
Hepatitis B is common in certain parts of the world. Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates of HBV. It is also common is the area surrounding the Amazon, India, and the Middle East. HBV spreads through sex, unsanitary needle practices, and contact with any infected blood. People don’t realize that the disease can even spread through a shared razor because of cuts. There are just under a dozen FDA approved treatments for HBV. There is also a very effective vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for anyone at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
What is Hepatitis C?
Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C spreads through blood. Hepatitis C (HCV) is different from HAV and HBV because people usually don’t realize they have the disease for decades. It can often take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to emerge. This means that serious liver disease can develop over time unknowingly. If a patient isn’t aware of the virus, they are unable to treat and prevent more damage. This makes hepatitis C especially dangerous. Only around half of people with HCV know that they have it.
Phases of Hepatitis – World Hepatitis Day
As a result, the first phase of hepatitis A, B, and C is always the acute phase. The acute phase occurs between 1 to 3 months after exposure. It typically lasts anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months. In hepatitis A and B, this is when the symptoms arise. The acute phase of hepatitis C is “silent”, meaning that there are rarely any symptoms. If symptoms are present, they are similar to the symptoms of hepatitis A and B.
HCV becomes chronic in most cases, but there are cases where the body is able to completely eliminate the virus. When this occurs it is called spontaneous viral clearance. Spontaneous viral clearance occurs in somewhere between 15 to 25 percent of cases. It is difficult to get a more precise number due to the “silent” nature of the acute phase. The age group most at risk for having undiagnosed HCV is people born between the year 1945 and 1965. People in this age range who were at higher risk during any point in their lives should be tested for the virus.
Medical Advancements in HCV
Up until recently, a HCV diagnosis meant daily medication and a weekly injection schedule. Medical advancements have made a cure possible for up to 90% of patients. Treatment depends on the specific genotype of the HCV. There are seven different genotypes of HCV, with over 67 subtypes. The cure for chronic HCV is a pill taken every day for up to six months. There are four different medications used to cure HCV. These medications are up to 95% effective.
The medication depends on the type of HCV each person has. It is important to note that this cure does not prevent someone from contracting the virus again. All precautions should be taken to avoid reinfection. This regimen can reduce the number of deaths from hepatitis C. The cure prevents the long-term liver damage that occurs from chronic HCV. Preventing cirrhosis and other types of damage prevents the development of cancer or liver failure.
Hepatitis C also differs from hepatitis A and B because there is no vaccine to protect against the virus. That means that people should avoid high-risk behaviors. People with certain medical conditions are particularly at risk. Someone with HIV is at a high risk for HCV co-infection. People with bleeding disorders or factor deficiencies are also at a higher risk for contracting the virus.
Hepatitis C Risk Factors – World Hepatitis Day
There are other risk factors, too. People who work in places where they may be in contact with contaminated blood or needles are at risk. They should take extra care with handling needles. This means tattoo and piercing shops, hospitals, or IV drug users. People who received blood transfusions before 1992 should also have a one-time screening for the virus. It is possible they acquired HCV from contaminated blood. Lastly, HCV can be passed from mother to child during birth if the mother has HCV.
As a result, hepatitis C is getting the most attention in this blog for a few reasons. In the United States, HCV is the most prevalent blood-borne infection. There is also no vaccine for HCV, which makes it more dangerous for people at higher risk. HCV is also the most likely form of hepatitis to lead to a chronic state. In 2016, the CDC published a report listing HCV as the number one cause of death from infectious disease in the US. So, it’s very important for us to do a comprehensive overview on it.
What is Hepatitis D?
Fourth, hepatitis D is much less common than the other forms we’ve discussed. To contract hepatitis D, you have to already have HBV. When hepatitis D (HDV) occurs, the potential for serious problems to arise is much higher. HDV can only exist in the presence of HBV. When the two combine, the risk for liver damage or disease compounds. The best way to prevent HDV is to prevent HBV. This means that if you vaccinate yourself against HBV then you are protected against HDV.
What is Hepatitis E?
Fifth, hepatitis E (HEV) spreads through contaminated food and water. HEV is most often spread through contaminated water. Like HAV, hepatitis E is mostly due to poor hygiene and is more common in developing areas for that reason. In most cases, HEV clears up on it’s own in 4-6 weeks. The biggest concern for HEV is with pregnant women. HEV is extremely dangerous for pregnant women. Around 20% of pregnant women who contract HEV will die from it. Usually only immune-compromised people who contract HEV will develop a chronic form. China has created an HEV vaccine, but it is only available in that country. Although HEV is found all over the world, there is a high concentration of cases in South Asia and East Asia.
What Are the Stages of Liver Damage From Hepatitis? – World Hepatitis Day
The most common liver complication from hepatitis is called fibrosis. Fibrosis is the result of chronic liver inflammation caused by hepatitis. This inflammation leads to the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue prevents the liver from functioning as well as it did before. Fibrosis precedes cirrhosis. If fibrosis is controlled with medications and new damage is prevented, it likely won’t progress into cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is the more severe form of fibrosis. The more scarring that develops on the liver, the less the liver will function.
Liver cancer can be caused by cirrhosis. There are two types of liver cancer that can develop from cirrhosis. The first is called hepatocellular carcinoma. The second type of cancer affects the bile ducts, called cholangiolar carcinoma.
Just as deadly as cancer is liver failure. Liver failure is not a common outcome for hepatitis, but it can occur.
Recap of World Hepatitis Day Awareness
All in all, there are many other types of complications caused by hepatitis. This is only an overview. The takeaway from this post is that prevention is the most effective way to stop serious consequences of hepatitis. It is important to know your risk factors and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and those you love. And, wear a yellow and red awareness pin to raise awareness about all forms of hepatitis and co-infections.