Categories: Liver

Is my family safe from Hepatitis?

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis means there is swelling on the liver and liver tests are abnormal. It is often caused by virus infections like Hepatitis A, B, C, and E viruses. Hepatitis A and E infections are short-lived. But Hepatitis B and C infections can last for many years resulting in several health issues. Such infections are silent killers. According to WHO, at present, 325 million people are living with Hepatitis B and C, but only 10 -20% of them are aware of it.

How do infections like Hepatitis A and E occur?

Hepatitis A infection is very common in children. People get Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E infections because of unhygienic food practices and drinking unsafe water. Due to Hepatitis, one can experience pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, yellow urine, and tiredness. Both these infections cause disease for a short duration and in the majority, they get cured on their own in one to two weeks. However, a small sub-group of people can experience the worst side of this infection like a liver failure which is a very severe and life-threatening state. In pregnant women, Hepatitis E can cause severe infection.

What should be done if someone gets Hepatitis A or E?

There are no medicines available for Hepatitis. During these illnesses, one needs supportive treatment. With jaundice also people can eat food that is prepared using oil, spices, salt, and turmeric. Restriction to these food ingredients will not improve recovery, but it will affect the nutrition of patients. Complete follow-up with your doctor, till he ensures complete recovery from Hepatitis. If the illness progresses like there is a change in consciousness or jaundice increases, then one should get admitted immediately. In the case of liver failure, if not timely treated can lead to loss of life unless liver transplantation is done.

How is Hepatitis B different from above Hepatitis?

Hepatitis B infections can stay in the liver for a long time and silently damage the liver. One gets Hepatitis B from another infected person like sharing infected needles, blood products, unprotected sex, tattooing, etc. If a mother has Hepatitis B, then chances of getting infection to her baby are very high. Long duration (Chronic) Hepatitis B infection can slowly damage the liver making it hard, scared, and small. Gradually, liver failure or liver cancer can occur. If someone has this infection, he should see a Liver Specialist. With one medicine, this virus can be kept under control and the liver can remain healthy.

Is Hepatitis C as bad as other viruses?

Hepatitis C more often causes long-lasting infection and slowly damages the liver leading to hard liver, cancer, and liver failure. Mode of getting Hepatitis C infection is similar to Hepatitis B. Most challenging aspect of diagnosis is both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are silent infections. When these infections are diagnosed during illness, significant damage has already occurred. However, the good news about Hepatitis C is that now there is a very effective treatment (3 to 6 months) available that can cure this infection.

How should one protect from Hepatitis and its ill-effects?

For Hepatitis A and E, one should always eat hygienic food from clean food outlets and drink safe water. Make sure there is a clean drinking water source to your residence and schools. If you are not getting a clean water supply, one should immediately report to concerned municipal authorities. For Hepatitis A, a very effective vaccine is available. Vaccination (2 doses of vaccine) which can be given to anyone after 1 year of age gives excellent protection. This vaccine is an optional vaccine in immunization programs. Ask your Child specialist for this vaccine to protect your child from Hepatitis A.

For Hepatitis B and C, one should always get blood from registered blood banks, use disposable needles, and avoid unprotected sex. Hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine. It is recommended that all babies should get a vaccine against Hepatitis B at birth and complete a 3 dose schedule. This can also protect babies from getting the infection from mothers with Hepatitis B infection. However, this vaccine can be given at any age. If any person is Hepatitis B positive, then all other family members should also get their tests done for Hepatitis B. Positive people will undergo further tests to evaluate the need for treatment. All those who are negative should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine. Unfortunately, yet we do not have any vaccine against Hepatitis C and E. Prevention of these infections should be our prime focus.

Take home message:

  • Protect yourself against Hepatitis by hygienic practices and vaccination against Hepatitis A and B.
  • Inform your doctor if you get jaundice and take treatment.
  • During routine health check-ups, test yourself for silent infections of Hepatitis B and C. Treat them and avoid further damage.

Let’s join hands to find missing Hepatitis and fight infections.

Dr. Vibhor Borkar | Consultant – Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist | NH SRCC Children’s Hospital, Mumbai

Narayana Health

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