All You Need To Know About Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a serious disorder which affects the liver, one of the most important organs of the body. The liver removes harmful chemicals and toxins from the blood and also converts proteins and sugars into useful substances, stores them and releases them when required by the body. A liver infection makes it difficult for the liver to perform these functions; hence, it is essential to eradicate any problem as soon as it is detected.
The word hepatitis comes from the Ancient Greek word hepar (root word hepat) meaning ‘liver’, and the Latin itis meaning inammation. Hepatitis can progress into fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis, but other infections, toxic substances like alcohol, certain drugs and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is contagious and can spread from one person to another.
Scientists have identified 5 unique hepatitis viruses — A, B, C, D and E. These viruses affect millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease. Around 1.5 million people die of liver disease every year.
How is Hepatitis Contracted
Globally, around 250 million people are affected by hepatitis C and 300 million people are estimated to be hepatitis B carriers. Hepatitis A is caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. Hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. A person can be infected with hepatitis D if one’s already infected with hepatitis B. One can become infected with the hepatitis E virus (HEV) by drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis that cannot be attributed to any of the viral forms of the disease is called hepatitis X. Hepatitis G is another type of hepatitis caused by a specific virus (HGV).
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark urine
- Pale stool
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
- The virus may spread more rapidly in areas like hospitals, day care centers, the sewage industry and places where people are in close contact with one another. Wash your hands thoroughly. Frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent many infections.
- Always wash your hands properly after using the toilet and when you come in contact with an infected person’s blood, stools or other body fluid. Carry hand sanitizers if soap and water aren’t readily available.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating and keep them separate from ready-to-eat foods. Keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.
- Hepatitis A is usually spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with feces. Avoid unfiltered water and roadside food. If bottled water isn’t available, boil tap water before drinking it.
- The hepatitis B & C virus can only be transmitted through infected blood (and, in the case of B, other body fluids). Never share needles, razors or nail cutters.
- In a hospital, the hepatitis B virus can spread by an accidental needle injury. Wearing gloves, eye protection, a face mask and washing hands can minimize the risk.
- Be cautious about body piercing and tattooing. Use sterile needles.
- Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease. Ensure there is no stagnant water in and around the house, especially open drains, shallow pools, air cooler water and fower pots.
- Good hygiene is an important factor for avoiding hepatitis. If traveling to a developing country, always avoid drinking impure water, consuming ice, seafood and raw fruits and vegetables.
Effective vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from hepatitis. Vaccinations are available against hepatitis A and B. Scientific research is on to develop vaccines against hepatitis C, D and E.
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