The United Nations has declared 28 July as World Hepatitis Day to bring awareness to a disease affecting many people. Hepatitis is a virus. It is endemic, or widespread, in many parts of the world. There are several types of hepatitis, named with the letters A, B, C, D and E. They have different causes, but similar symptoms.
“Hepar” is from the Greek language, it means “liver” and “-itis” is often used for diseases that cause inflammation or swelling. Hepatitis causes the liver to swell. When viral hepatitis gets to the liver, the immune system, which usually protects the body, attacks the liver. This causes it to swell and prevents the liver from working.
Hepatitis A and E are caused by viral hepatitis present in contaminated food or water. Washing food and cooking it well can prevent spread of Hepatitis A and E.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with bodily fluids in an infected person, like blood. It can be transferred from mother to baby, or if you are exposed to the blood of someone who is sick. Dirty medical equipment is also a source. Hepatitis B can affect as many as 1 out of 10 adults where it is widespread. Hepatitis D occurs in people who had Hepatitis B after they have been sick for many years.
Hepatitis C is also widespread around the world, including in the United States and developing world.
Hepatitis makes the liver swell. Because the liver acts like a filter for your body, helping clean bad things out of your blood, it is very important to your overall health. People sick with hepatitis are often very tired (have malaise), may have fever, muscle ache, vomiting, or diarrhea. One strong sign of hepatitis is jaundice, when the skin and/or eyes become yellowed.
Some people may go years without any real symptoms except that they feel very tired or weak. Others become very sick and die. Hepatitis can be diagnosed with a blood test, but usually it is effective to vaccinate all children. The hepatitis vaccine is good for life and keeps you healthy.
It is important to wash food and use water that is safe to drink to prevent Hepatitis A and E. It is also important to avoid contact with blood and other bodily fluid as well as unclean medical equipment to prevent Hepatitis B and C.
This book contains very useful information about the hepatitis virus.