Hepatitis is caused by a virus that infects liver cells and causes inflammation. The inflammation can affect how your liver works and cause other signs and symptoms of hepatitis – Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Rastogi, Specialist Gastroenterology at Canadian Specialist Hospital
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.
Hepatitis often goes undiagnosed as people do not tend to notice any symptoms until it has already damaged the liver. The symptoms of types A, B, and C may include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, belly pain, a mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).
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.