Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.
Community Education Assistant
What is Hepatitis?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Hepatitis as an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is usually caused by Hepatitis viruses but can also occur from other infections, use of alcohol or drugs, certain medications and autoimmune diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are five main types of Hepatitis: Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E; these types of Hepatitis cause the greatest burden of illness and death and have the most potential to spread among individuals. Hepatitis B and C, in particular, lead to chronic disease in millions of Americans, including liver cirrhosis and cancer. The most prevalent forms of Hepatitis in the United States are types A, B, and C.
Hepatitis A (HAV)
Hepatitis A is found in the waste of those who are infected and is usually spread by consuming contaminated water or food. HAV is most commonly found in areas with poor sanitation. According to the WHO, certain sexual practices can also spread HAV. Individuals infected with HAV often experience mild infections and make a full recovery. However, in some cases, the infection can be severe and life threatening. In order to protect yourself from Hepatitis A, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated and practicing good personal hygiene by regularly washing your hands.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
The WHO estimates that approximately 257 million Americans are infected with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B causes both acute, or short-term disease, as well as chronic or long-term disease, and can be life threatening. HBV is passed from person to person by contact with infected blood or body fluids, and can even be passed from mother to child at birth. Those infected with HBV are at an increased risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. Fortunately, there are safe and effective vaccines to prevent HBV infection. The WHO recommends that all infants be vaccinated for HBV within the first 24 hours of birth to protect against Hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
Globally, the WHO estimates 71 million people have Hepatitis C. Similar to the Hepatitis B virus, the Hepatitis C virus also causes both acute and chronic disease. Infections can range from a mild illness that lasts for a few weeks to a severe illness that lasts a lifetime. HCV is classified as a blood borne virus that is spread through direct contact with infected blood. Unsafe injection practices, like injection drug use, and unsafe healthcare practices can result in the spread of the Hepatitis C virus. Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV, but there are antiviral medications that can cure more than 95% of those infected. To avoid infection, the WHO urges individuals to refrain from sharing needles, syringes, razors or toothbrushes with others. If you are sexually active, always use protection.
Protecting Yourself and Others
If you currently have Hepatitis, it’s important to take care of yourself and your loved ones. To keep yourself healthy and free of infection, the CDC recommends visiting your healthcare professional on a regular basis, monitoring your liver, avoiding alcohol and staying up-to-date on the latest research, information, and treatment for Hepatitis. Chronic Hepatitis can often cause nausea, fatigue, and emotional stress. In order to ease your symptoms, make it a priority to eat a nutritious diet, take naps throughout the day as needed, and find ways to cope with your stress. To ensure the safety of your loved ones and others around you, don’t share toothbrushes, razors, needles, syringes, nail files, clippers, or any other objects that come into contact with blood or body fluids.
For more information on hepatitis, talk your healthcare provider, or call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our wellness center on 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.