According to the World Health Organization, 325 million people were living with chronic hepatitis infections around the world in 2015. Hepatitis, an inflammatory condition of the liver, is commonly caused by a viral infection. The five types of hepatitis virus (A through E) vary in severity and complication. Hepatitis A and B are vaccine-preventable; hepatitis D is dependent upon having an infection with hepatitis B, so vaccination against B can also help prevent D.event D.
Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A and E are typically transmitted through contaminated food and water; the virus is transmitted by the “fecal-oral” route, meaning the virus lives in the intestinal tract and can be passed along through poor personal hygiene. Areas most at risk include impoverished communities and locations with challenges to preventive health care funding. Locations that have challenges with sanitation, fresh clean water, and power, are also vulnerable.
Hepatitis B, C, and D are transmitted through blood, blood products, and rarely through other bodily fluid. Individuals born before 1960 are at greatest risk for hepatitis C because of lack of education about the disease, and limited sterilization of medical and dental instruments in the past. Once the medical community learned the importance of identifying this virus, many processes changed and campaigns on education for this disease began. Like hepatitis A and E, areas most at risk for transmission of viral hepatitis are those locations that are impoverished, have poor spending for public health initiatives, and reduced screening capacity.
Risk factors for hepatitis include:
- Received blood transfusion before 1992
- Sharing needles and IV drug abuse
- Unprotected sex
- Poor personal hygiene
- Contact with blood or blood products
- Eating contaminated food or water
Hepatitis vaccines are given in a series and a combination of A/B is currently available. Full protection (greater than 95 percent) is provided by receiving the complete series on schedule and allowing several weeks for immunity to build following the last injection.
Currently, hepatitis C is the only type that can be effectively treated with medication. Some medicines may help the symptoms of the other types but not cure it. Remember to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, wash hands thoroughly and completely, eat only hot foods from reputable establishments, and know your risk factors.
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