World Hepatitis Day: Facts most people don’t know

While the liver can combat hepatitis infection on its own in many cases, others become chronic infections that leave behind long-term health implications. 

Here are certain facts about the ailment that many people don’t know about: 

Symptoms can take weeks or months to emerge
Hepatitis is often hard to detect as it manifests with mild flu-like symptoms – fatigue, fever, and body aches – which are mostly neglected by individuals. Other grave symptoms such as skin rashes, weight loss, and yellowing of skin, urine, and eyes (popularly termed as jaundice) may take weeks or months to emerge. 

n some cases, symptoms could develop after years or not show any signs at all, especially in Hepatitis C. In the case of Hepatitis C and B, many infected people aren’t aware about their health status as the ailment is often asymptomatic. 

No jaundice doesn’t mean no hepatitis

Hepatitis B and C cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, while A and E do not. If Hepattis A or E patients have a strong immune system, the ailment can be resolved without major medical treatment. The disease only becomes apparent if the liver is affected, after which the symptoms show up. The absence of yellow skin or jaundice does not mean there’s no Hepatitis. Currently, vaccines are available only for Hepatitis A and B. 

Vaccinations may not always protect babies born to infected mothers
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood, semen, and other body fluids, while hepatitis C only occurs through infected blood. Hepatitis B can be passed on from mother to child during birth, but not Hepatitis C. If a pregnant woman is infected, early vaccination could prevent the virus’s transmission to the new-born. Infants of infected mothers can be vaccinated immediately, thereby receiving antibodies to counter the infection. However, in 10% of the cases, the transmission may still occur if virus levels in the mother’s blood are already high. Therefore, infected pregnant mothers should be vaccinated early to prevent transmission to the new-born. 

Contaminated water can spread Hepatitis A and E 
All hepatitis viruses don’t spread through the direct exchange of body fluids. Contaminated food or water can spread Hepatitis A and E. Drinking safe potable water while ensuring proper sanitation and hygienic conditions can help prevent types A and E. South-east Asia holds the highest Hepatitis incidence, with transmission through the fecal-oral route, mainly through contaminated water. 

Delayed treatment can lead to liver cancer
In all cases, proper care and regular check-ups remain essential. Delayed treatment can result in liver inflammation from chronic hepatitis, damaging the cells and leading to liver cancer. Although specific medicines can help control hepatitis, lifestyle changes like avoiding or curbing alcohol consumption are crucial for controlling the progression. In Hepatitis B and C, alcohol can worsen liver scarring and hasten the progression. 


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