Today, people around the globe are celebrating World Hepatitis Day. But unfortunately, in our part of the world, many are still unaware of how this common but deadly disease occurs and how it can be prevented.
If I were to explain this disease in layman terms, it would be that hepatitis is the main virus which causes inflammation in our livers. Generally, there are five hepatitis viruses; A, B, C, D and E. These five types are given the most importance because the illness caused by these viruses can be fatal.
Let’s dissect these viruses separately.
Hepatitis A and E
Hepatitis A and E are generally caused by consumption of infected food or contaminated water; these viruses are present in the feces of the infected person and it is spread by close contact with someone through any physical means. Hepatitis A is typically a self-limited, acute viral infection in your liver.
How can hepatitis A and E be prevented?
To prevent yourself from getting infected by these viruses, you need to improve your hygiene and drink clean water as it is totally up to you how you take care of yourself to prevent the spread of these viruses.
Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses and they can occur when you are in contact with infected body fluids. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through contaminated blood or any kind of equipment that has been used invasively through medical procedures. B and C hepatitis can also be caused by any sexual contact. Generally, these two types of hepatitis lead to chronic diseases and causes cancer or liver cirrhosis.
Hepatitis can give you symptoms of flu but that is totally different disease. Although some types of hepatitis get better on themselves, others can cause really serious damage to your liver and it can leave you in need of a new liver, in many cases.
It is impossible to live without a properly functioning liver as it clears the poison from your body and help you control the infections. Liver also helps in making proteins that are involved in the bile, which helps you absorb vitamins and fats. While it is true that our liver can heal itself to some extent, repeated damage can overwhelm it.
Hepatitis viruses attack your liver and these viruses can make you feel tired, you can feel feverish, lose appetite, and have stomach pain. The most common symptom can be a change in color of your urine, eyes and skin to yellow.
People most likely to get hepatitis A and E
Travelers, particularly those traveling to developing countries
Day-care children and employees, during outbreaks
People who use illicit drugs
People living in areas where children are not routinely vaccinated
People most likely to get hepatitis B and C
Those who partake in unsafe sexual activity
Those who get infected blood in their bodies
Those who make contact with infected bodily fluids
How to stay safe and keep others safe too
As mentioned before, Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through infected blood or with unsafe physical contact, it is important to take a few measures to save others from the contagious viruses.
Always wash your hands with soap thoroughly after touching your own body fluids or blood, throw your disposable items such as tissues, bandages etc away in a plastic bag. Keep your cuts and open sores with bandage. Wipe away your blood spills and clean the body area with a solution.
People living with the patient of hepatitis B and C should take a test too and get vaccinated because it can be extremely dangerous for someone unvaccinated exposed to infected blood.
Things to avoid
Strictly avoid alcohol intake or any drug when affected by this virus. Your liver is already too damaged and it is extremely important to pamper your liver. Do not share your toothbrushes, needles, clippers, nail filer, scissors, razors or any other object that was once in contact with infected blood with anyone. Do not share your food or pre-chew food for babies. Do not donate body organs, blood or tissue.
Hepatitis A and E patients just need bed rest, they need to abstain from alcohol and take medication to help relieve symptoms. People with hepatitis A and E get well on their own after a few weeks but it depends on how well they take care of themselves and it is not very expensive.
Hepatitis B and C is treated with drugs and it’s pretty costly; there is an anti-viral treatment for hepatitis B and C but there are two drugs available for hepatitis C which can be effective for G 1 and 3 types. G 2 and 4 are still difficult to treat.
On this day, it would do us well to educate ourselves about one of the most common viruses present in Pakistan. Spread the awareness and stay healthy!