An estimated 300 million people worldwide are living with the hepatitis virus without even knowing it. Without proper medical attention, people will continue to suffer from this insidious disease. July 28th is World Hepatitis Day, and it is important to know the signs and symptoms of the different viral strains.
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark urine
- Pale stool
- Loss of appetite
- Yellow eyes and skin, which is a sign of jaundice
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Loose stool
Chronic Hepatitis develops slowly, and these symptoms may be hard to notice at first.
Hepatitis A is contracted by eating food or water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Although it can cause illness, it is rarely fatal and does not cause chronic liver disease. With proper food safety precautions, sanitation, and vaccination, it can be avoided.
Hepatitis B can be contracted from an infected mother at birth, sharing needles, or sexual contact. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications such as cirrhosis or liver cancer, both of which can be fatal. The best way to avoid contracting the Hepatitis B strain is to get vaccinated throughout your lifetime.
Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Sharing needles and unsanitary medical equipment are a few ways in which this strain of the virus is spread. Most people who contract Hepatitis C go on to have a chronic infection. It is estimated that people born between 1945 and 1965 are 5 times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C. Many baby boomers are unaware that they have contracted the virus, and it is recommended that people in this age demographic are tested to ensure that they aren’t infected. New treatments are available which can cure the disease, reducing the chances of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. There is currently no vaccine against this strain of the virus.
Hepatitis D is contracted by contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis D only affects people who already are infected with the Hepatitis B virus. Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B is the only way to prevent contracting this strain of the virus.
The main source of contracting Hepatitis E is by drinking contaminated drinking water. Pregnant women with Hepatitis E have a high chance of mortality from this strain. While there is currently no vaccine against this strain available in the United States, improved sanitation efforts can prevent spreading this strain.
Premier Health Associates’ Gastroenterology Department is able to care for these illnesses. Dr. Rao and Dr. Lindy are both certified gastroenterology specialists and have extensive experience in treating liver disease.
For more information on the Hepatitis virus, visit the CDC’s webpage.