Hepatitis virus is a versatile virus that inflames the liver. It can be transmitted through a number of ways, and not all strands of hepatitis are lethal. The liver is the second largest organ in the human body, preceded by the skin (yes, the skin is an organ). It handles certain processes when dealing with substances that you consume, and helps in creating waste from these substances, as well as building cells. Among the processes of the liver: it creates urine; digests harmful substances (like alcohol), creates red blood cells; helps regulate the glucose level within the body and creates certain amino acids, which are the building blocks of the cells. As you can see, the liver is very important is vital to our survival.
Signs and Symptoms
Although hepatitis virus comes in various strains, its signs and symptoms are often similar. There are two phases to the virus:
- The first phase is called the acute phase. The symptoms in this phase are akin to a mild flu there’s: diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild fever, muscle or joint aches, nausea, slight abdominal pain, vomiting and weight loss*. This acute phase usually lasts about 15 to 180s days after the person has become infected. If these symptoms persist or develop further, it can lead to death.
- As one feels worse, they can move into the second part of the symptoms, which usually happens as the virus becomes more engrained in your system. The outcome of the infected individual after this phase depends largely on the type of hepatitis virus and other various factors. The symptoms of the second part include: circulation problems, dark urine, dizziness, drowsiness, enlarged spleen, headache, hives, and itchy skin, light colored feces (that may contain pus) and jaundice.
Causes and Risk Factors
There aren’t many ways to catch hepatitis, but the main way to catch it is the transmission of fluids from an infected host (that can be inanimate or not) to an uninfected individual. Each method of infection is specific to that type of hepatitis viral strain.
- Types A and E can be caught through drinking water or food contamination.
- Types B and E can be caught through anal or oral sex while type B can also be transmitted through any kind of intimate sexual activity.
- Type C can only be caught through the direct contact of infected blood while type C and type B can be caught by misuse of anesthesia.
- Type G is a caused by a specific virus and type X has an unknown mode of transmission.
- D is an advanced form of strain B and can only be gained in the same way strain B is contracted.
The different types of hepatitis are A, B, C, D, E, G and X.
- Type A is usually contracted by eating infected food or water; or by having anal or oral sex. This type isn’t usually lethal and most people make a full recovery afterwards without it leading to a chronic illness.
- Hepatitis B is one of the main ones people usually hear about. It is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) that can be contracted via anal, vaginal or oral unprotected sex (without a condom), having your skin perforated with an unsterilized needle; a baby can become infected by drinking milk from an infected tit, and you can also get it by being bitten by someone with the virus.
- Hepatitis C is another infamous strain of the virus. This can be contracted via infected blood or misuse of synesthesia. There is an increased risk among people with cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis D is an evolved form of B and can only be contracted by someone that already has Hepatitis B. In all forms of hepatitis the liver swells. This can either be a good or bad thing depending on a variety of factors.
- Hepatitis B, C, and D can lead to death in serious cases.
Tests and Diagnosis
Testing for any Hepatitis is done through a blood test. Your physician would inform you after a standard physical (usually that is where one takes a blood test) to tell you if you’ve somehow contracted the virus.
Treatments and Medications
There isn’t any standard treatment for strains A, D, E, X or G.
- For strain B, a high protein diet and rest serves as treatment as well as prescriptions such as interferon, an antiviral agent.
- A person with Hepatitis C can be prescribed a different type of interferon as well as riboflavin; although the use of interferon for treatment in Hepatitis C strands is contested.
- For people that have contracted a non-viral strand of hepatitis, the harmful substance is usually flushed out. If the virus was contracted via a drug-induced treatment, corticosteroids are usually prescribed.
Precaution and Self-Care
If you are worried about contracting hepatitis or just want to know how to prevent it, there are steps you can take. For strains A and E, one would be leery of any food or drink that may be contaminated. For strains B and C, use a condom when having sex, don’t share needles, try not to drink a lot of alcohol, and cover open wounds if you are infected. For strain D, follow the precautions of strain B and for strain E do the same precaution for strain A. For all other strains, go easy on the alcohol. For drug and toxic induced hepatitis virus strains, watch out for chemicals, wear protective gear and make sure whatever is being expelled is not pointing nor makes contact with you.
Hepatitis is a dangerous disease that millions live with every day. It is moderately contagious but easily preventable. Now medicine is almost curing hepatitis C and soon in the future all the hepatitis virus will be 100% treatable.