Understanding Hepatitis: Symptoms, Transmission, and Prevention
Posted on 05/07/2024
May is the Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19 is the National Hepatitis Testing Day, which are two great opportunities to learn about hepatitis and to test for it. What is Hepatitis? It is the inflammation of the liver. Liver is one of our fundamental organs that detoxifies, filters, stores micronutrients and performs some 500 other functions. So, if your liver is inflamed these functions can be affected in a variety of ways. But how do you get Hepatitis? Hepatitis can be both infectious and non-infectious. Infectious causes include viruses whereas non-infectious causes of Hepatitis include auto-immune causes, alcohol intoxication and some medication associated hepatitis. 

The infectious cause for Hepatitis are 5 viruses that are A, B, C, D and E. Of these 5 viruses Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E have a different route of transmission compared to the Hep B, Hep C and Hep D. Hepatitis symptoms, regardless of the type, include nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, right-sided abdominal pain, dark urine, and weakness.

Hep C, Hep B
Hep A   
People can be infected by Hepatitis A by ingesting food and water contaminated by it, it can also be spread by close person to person contact like certain sex practices (oral-anal sex), in men who have sex with men (MSM), person who inject drugs and share needles and people experiencing homelessness. People can transmit the virus two weeks before they feel sick and up to one week after recovering. People who get Hep A can fight the virus and can develop immunity.  

Hep B   
This virus is transmitted through blood, and it can spread through practices like sharing needles for drugs with infected people, accidental poke by a syringe while drawing blood of an infected person, sexual contact with an infected partner, an infected mother has over a 40 % risk of transmitting the infection to her baby. It can also be spread by sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes and combs with an infected person. The younger the person is when infected by Hep B, the more likely the person is to develop a chronic infection and, in some cases, it can progress to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Hep B has treatment but not a cure. 

Hep C   
Just like Hepatitis B, this virus is also spread through blood and in the US the most common practices that lead to Hep C are injection drug use, sharing needles and drug injection equipment, it can also spread by non-injection drug equipment like pipes used for snorting drugs, by getting tattoos and piercings from unlicensed places, about 6 % of infected mothers can pass this infection onto their babies and it can also be spread by sharing personal equipment like razors, tooth brushes with an infected individual. More than half of the people who get infected with Hep C, go onto develop chronic infection which can in some cases progress to liver cancer. 

We can effectively prevent Hep A and Hep B by getting vaccines.
According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), a lot of people in the US are unaware that they are infected with Hep B and Hep C, 1 in 2 people with Hep B do not know that they have Hep B. And 1 in 3 people with Hep C do not know that they are infected with Hep C. May 19th is the National Hepatitis testing day and it is the perfect opportunity to get tested for Hep B and Hep C to know your Hepatitis status. There is no vaccine for Hep C but there is an effective cure for Hep C called the Direct Acting Antivirals also known as DAAs. Please share this information with your friends and family. Find additional resources below. 

CDC is Committed to Advancing Viral Hepatitis Elimination in the United States

Hepatitis Awareness Month | CDC

Awareness Months and Days | HHS.gov

cdc facts Hepatitis  cdc facts Hepatitis 2