Hepatitis is an inflammation or swelling of the liver, a condition where the liver is unable to function properly. It can be caused by factors including viruses, chemicals, drug abuse, some medications and immune disorders.
Hepatitis A, B and C are caused by the respective hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. In some cases, minimal to no symptoms of hepatitis will appear in the first weeks after infection. Possible and common symptoms in the early stages include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, belly pain, mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).
Before hepatitis B and C advances to the chronic stage, no symptoms may be experienced for years, and by the time warning signs surface, the liver may already be damaged. (source)
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and is usually spread through food or water. It typically causes mild symptoms and many people who are infected may never realise they are sick. Raw shellfish, fruits, vegetables and undercooked foods are common culprits in hepatitis A outbreaks.
A prime risk factor for hepatitis A is traveling to or living in a country with high infection rates. These areas include all parts of the world with the exception of Canada, western Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. (source)
Hepatitis B is the most common and serious infection. It can lead to complications like chronic hepatitis (permanent liver inflammation), liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Those who recover completely from the hepatitis B infection become immune to the disease. However, those who do not fully recover, end up becoming permanent carriers of the virus. There is a high risk of these carriers spreading the disease as they do not know they carry the diseases due to the absence of symptoms.
Hepatitis B is found in every country, but the risk is higher in South America, Africa, eastern Europe and Asia. (source) The risk of getting a hepatitis B infection is present if a person has no immunity or antibodies from having a previous hepatitis B infection. The virus can be spread through different ways such as:
From an infected mother to her newborn child
Sharing blades with another infected person
Accidental cuts to the skin by a nail clipper or blade with a person who is infected
Being vaccinated against Hepatitis B would protect one from the infection.
Hepatitis C and Cancer
Hepatitis B and C are spread to others in similar ways – through blood, semen or other bodily fluids; although the risk of infection by sexual contact is lower in hepatitis C. The virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding or physical contact like hugging, kissing and holding hands. You cannot get hepatitis C from someone coughing or sneezing.
Hepatitis C is one of the several viruses aside from Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that have been linked to cancer. Ongoing infection of hepatitis C causes inflammation in the liver and extended inflammation over time can cause scarring, also known as cirrhosis. This can ultimately lead to liver cancer and is what makes it one of the leading causes of liver cancer.
Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine against hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can be detected through a simple blood test and can be easily treated once detected. With early diagnosis and intervention, the virus can be cured in more than 90% of the cases. (source)
Protect Yourself; Get Vaccinated
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from hepatitis A, B and C.
- Hepatitis A: Avoid unclean food and water and adhere to hygienic practices (source)
- Hepatitis B: Go for a vaccination
- Hepatitis C: Get screened early
CIH’s 24-hour clinic provides a personalised healthcare experience and offers medical services including acute medical consultation, chronic problems, vaccinations, check-ups and radiological services.