Hepatitis A

Highly contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease leads to an inflammation of the liver and affects its proper functioning.

 

Hepatitis B

Serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that can become chronic (lasting for more than 6 months). Chronic hepatitis B puts a person at risk of developing liver failure, cirrhosis or liver cancer.

 

Hepatitis C

Liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) which is in most cases asymptomatic (with no symptoms). It is usually discovered by accident when liver damage is already present.

 

Less common forms of hepatitis:

 

Hepatitis D

Liver infection caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). This condition appears when a person already has an active hepatitis B infection.

 

Hepatitis E

Liver infection caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), spread through “fecal-oral transmission”.

Causes

The infections with the hepatitis A, B, C, D or E virus imply the specific virus’ entering of the liver cells and multiplication within them. A singular exception is in the case of hepatitis D, where the HDV can only multiply if there is an active hepatitis B infection present. Hepatitis is associated with poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water.

 

Hepatitis A

Caused by ingestion of contaminated fecal matter by:

 

Eating food that has been handled by a contaminated person which has used the toilet and has not washed his/her hands properly

 

Drinking contaminated water

 

Having intercourse with a contaminated person

 

Close contact with a contaminated person

 

Eating raw fish from contaminated waters (sewage pollution)

 

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus is passed through saliva, semen, blood and other body fluids

 

Unprotected intercourse with a contaminated person

 

Needle sharing

 

Mother to child at birth

 

Hepatitis C

Caused by coming into contact with infected blood

 

Hepatitis D

 

Contact with infected body fluids

 

Exposure to contaminated blood

 

Infected needles – for tattoos, piercings, needle sharing

 

Hepatitis E

 

Eating or drinking something that has been contaminated (“fecal-oral transmission”)

Symptoms and signs

Hepatitis A

Symptoms can appear 14-28 days after contracting the virus

Abdominal pain, discomfort in the liver area

Nausea, vomiting

Jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes)

Fatigue

Low fever

Appetite loss

Pain in joints

Dark-colored urine

Clay-colored stools

 

Hepatitis B

Jaundice

Abdominal pain and discomfort

Dark-colored urine

Fever

Pain in joints

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fatigue

Overall weakness sensation

 

Hepatitis C

Symptoms usually appear in a chronic stage of the infection:

Jaundice

Muscle and joint pain

Fatigue

Stomach pain

Dark-colored urine

Nausea

Loss of appetite

Fever

 

Advanced stages of the infection when liver damage has occurred:

Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen)

Leg swelling

Weight loss

Spider angiomas (spider-like blood vessels on the skin)

Bruising and bleeding easily

Skin itchiness

Hepatic encephalopathy (drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech)

 

Hepatitis D

Symptoms can appear 14-180 days after contracting the virus

Fatigue

Jaundice

Low-energy levels

Loss of appetite

Nausea, vomiting

Diarrhea

Low fever

Muscle and joint pain

Soreness in throat

Mild abdominal pain/stomach pain

Dark-colored urine

Clay-colored stools

 

Hepatitis E

Symptoms can appear 14-60 days after infection and can be similar to those of stomach flu

Fatigue, tiredness

Nausea, vomiting

Loss of appetite

Diarrhea

Low fever

Jaundice

Muscle and joint pain

Abdominal pain

Dark urine, clay-colored stools

Advice

Hepatitis A

 

Mild cases usually do not require treatment

 

The infection clears on its own within six months

 

Blood tests are used to detect the virus’ presence

 

Treatment focuses on symptom management – mostly coping with nausea and vomiting

 

Rest is recommended, avoiding alcohol and not soliciting your liver too much

 

A vaccine for prevention is available

 

Hepatitis B

 

Most adults usually recover completely, but infants and children are at risk of developing chronic hepatitis B

 

A vaccine can prevent it, but is ineffective after the virus has been contracted

 

Blood tests can determine if the virus is present

 

Liver biopsy – a liver sample is extracted to check for liver damage

 

In acute cases, special treatment may not be necessary – the doctor will decide this aspect

 

In chronic hepatitis B infections: antiviral medication (lamivudine, adefovir, telbivudine), interferon alfa-2b (infection fighter), liver transplant (in severe liver damage cases)

 

Hepatitis C

 

Blood tests determine the virus’ presence, measure quantity (viral load) and evaluate genotype (in order to choose treatment options)

 

Liver biopsy

 

Medication: antiviral drugs (help in clearing the virus from the body) – treatment from 12 weeks to 72 weeks

 

Liver transplant

 

Hepatitis D

 

Blood tests – liver enzymes and antibodies

 

In acute cases, treatment may not be necessary, only symptom management

 

In chronic cases: medication (alpha interferon, pegylated alpha interferon)

 

Liver transplant

 

Prevention: hepatitis B vaccination – because the HDV cannot develop without the presence of the HBV

 

Hepatitis E

 

Blood tests – liver enzymes and antibodies

 

Treatment focuses on symptom management

 

Recommendations: rest, plenty of fluids, eating early in the day, avoiding alcohol and stressing the liver, regular exercise

MISCONCEPTIONS
  •  

    The hepatitis B vaccine is effective even if the person is already infected with the virus

     

    There is no treatment for chronic hepatitis B

     

    Hepatitis B can be spread through sneezing

     

    You can get hepatitis from a mosquito bite

     

    It is not possible to reduce the risk of getting hepatitis

Statistics

Hepatitis A infections: 1.4 million/year, worldwide

 

Up to 600,000 HBV-related deaths occur each year worldwide

 

Hepatitis B infections worldwide: 2 billion

 

Up to 40,000 new cases of Hepatitis B/year in the US

 

Hepatitis C infections worldwide: 170 million people

 

Hepatitis D infections worldwide: 15-20 million (high prevalence in the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, Central Africa, Amazonian basin and part of Asia)

 

Hepatitis E infections: 20 million/year (highest prevalence in East and South Asia)

Did you know?

The hepatitis A virus does not cause long-term liver damage

 

Hepatitis E virus infections do not lead to chronic hepatitis and once a person has this kind of infection it will not be contracted again

 

World Hepatitis Day: 28 July

 

China produced and licensed the first vaccine for Hepatitis E prevention (does not have global availability yet)

 

Unfortunately, hepatitis C is quite common in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and Eastern Europe

 

Celebrities that overcame hepatitis C infections: Pamela Anderson, Steven Tyler, Natalie Cole, Evel Knievel