Hepatitis Basics

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Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. There are multiple types of Hepatitis, and most are caused by a viral infection. However, extreme alcohol use, some medications, and certain medical conditions can also cause Hepatitis.

The liver is a vital organ that performs over 500 functions to keep the body healthy; it digests food and processes nutrients, battles infections, recycles and filters blood, maintains the level of sugar in the bloodstream, flushes out toxins, and more. When the liver is inflamed, its function can be affected. Many people with Hepatitis suffer from a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, digestive issues, stomach pain, and jaundice. These symptoms generally appear within 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure to the virus for individuals with acute infections. However, many people experience no symptoms and are unaware that they have been infected.

The most common three types of Hepatitis in the United States are A, B, and C:

Hepatitis A is spread when a person consumes microscopic amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Nearly 6,700 people are infected with Hepatitis A in the U.S. each year, though most recover with no lasting liver damage after experiencing illness for a few weeks to a few months. A vaccine is available for Hepatitis A and recommended by the CDC for all children at age 1.

Hepatitis B is spread when bodily fluids such as blood or semen from an infected person enter the body of an uninfected person. Hepatitis B can be spread though sex, birth to an infected mother, sharing syringes, and through sharing personal items like toothbrushes and razors. Around 22,100 people are infected with Hepatitis B in the U.S. each year. For those infected, Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness lasting a couple of weeks to a serious, life-long chronic condition, which is seen more often in infected children.  The CDC recommends vaccinating all infants against Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C: is spread when the blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. Sharing syringes, birth to an infected mother, and blood and organ transfusions prior to 1992 were common means of spreading the virus. About 44,300 people are infected with Hepatitis C annually, and while it can range from a mild illness ranging a few weeks to a serious, life-long chronic condition, most people infected with Hepatitis C will develop the chronic condition. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants, and there is currently no vaccine for the virus.

Resources:
World Health Organizationhttps://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/what-is-hepatitis#:~:text=There%20are%205%20main%20hepatitis,for%20outbreaks%20and%20epidemic%20spread.
The Cleveland Clinic
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4245-hepatitis-viral-hepatitis-a-b–c
The Liver Foundation
https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/hepatitis-a/
Hepatitis B Foundation
https://www.hepb.org/assets/Uploads/Hepatitis-B-and-your-Liver.pdf