Hepatitis Q&A

World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to raise awareness, and actively promote screenings and vaccinations. In light of World Hepatitis Day, here’s some frequently asked questions answered.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. There are five types of Hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E and only a healthcare provider is able to diagnose it.

What is the difference between hepatitis A, B, and C?

Hepatitis A, B, and C are caused by three distinct viruses. They have different ways of transmission. The effect on the body and the liver varies depending on the virus. Those who contract Hepatitis A usually improve without specific medications and it doesn’t develop into a persistent liver infection. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can progress into persistent or chronic infections resulting in liver damage.

How do I get hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is spread through the ingestion of an infected stool, from close person-to-person contact with an infected individual, sexual contact, or contaminated objects.

How do I get hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, or from mother to child during birth.

Hepatitis B is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and while the virus can be treated, you stand a chance of not being cured completely.

How do I get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is transmitted when the blood of a person who has the virus enters another person’s bloodstream. This may happen through the sharing of contaminated needles or other injection equipment.

How do I get hepatitis D?

Hepatitis D occurs only among people infected with the Hepatitis B virus. Transmission requires contact with infectious blood. At-risk populations include drug abusers and people who have received multiple blood transfusions.

How do I get hepatitis E?

The hepatitis E virus is mainly transmitted through drinking water contaminated with stool. Hepatitis E usually resolves on its own within four to six weeks.

How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Only a healthcare provider is able to diagnose hepatitis and this is done through blood tests.

How do I prevent hepatitis?

Safe, effective vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B. It’s important to practice safe sex to avoid transmission of hepatitis B. Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C, D, and E. The best way to prevent hepatitis D and C infection is to abstain from injecting drugs. Hepatitis E is prevented by maintaining hygienic practices and avoiding the consumption of water and ice of unknown purity.

If you have any questions about hepatitis, it’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).