The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
According to WHO, there are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the feces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infected blood, semen, and other body fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through exposure to infected blood. There is no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome. Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.
Canadian Specialist Hospital Gastroenterology specialist Dr Sanjeev Kumar Rastogi said both Hepatitis B and C are ordinary in the Middle East and North Africa, which, “if left untreated can lead to chronic diseases like liver cancer and cirrhosis.” Then why hepatitis is still widespread despite the world standard of Anti-Hepatitis B immunization on newborns? “It is precisely because not enough children are being vaccinated against (HBV) that the disease is still a formidable health problem, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries”.
Regular screening through a simple blood test that detects the virus. According to Dr. Rastogi the solution to hepatitis is clean and hygienic surroundings and living: adequate supply of drinking water, proper disposal sewage and waste, regular hand washing with safe water, Hepatitis A vaccine.
Against Hepatitis B is the three-dose schedule of Hepatitis B vaccine and anti-viral drugs.
Against Hepatitis C are hand hygiene including surgical hand preparation, hand washing and the use of gloves; safe and appropriate use of health care injections; safe handling and disposal of used injection needles; provision of comprehensive harm-reduction services to people who inject drugs including sterile injecting equipment; testing of donated blood for Hepatitis B and C, syphilis and Human Immunodeficiency Virus; training of health personnel; and the promotion of the correct and consistent use of condoms.
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