Nursing In Ghana

Hepatitis: The A to E of Liver Disease

Hepatitis is a viral infection which causes inflammatory of the liver. Hepatitis comes from the Ancient Greek word “hepat” which means liver and the Latin word “itis” that means inflammation.

There are five types of hepatitis, which is named after the virus that causes it.  The five types are Hepatitis A (HAV), Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), Hepatitis D (HDV) and Hepatitis E (HEV). Among these types, Hepatitis A and E are caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.  Hepatitis B, C, and D are usually transmitted by contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures which used contaminated equipment, transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child and by sexual contact.

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Types of Hepatitis

Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A virus is usually present in the faeces of infected persons and is transmitted by consumption of contaminated food or water. Anal-oral contact during sex can also be a cause of hepatitis A.  Since this infection is mild in many cases, most people make a full recovery and do not lead to chronic disease. However, it can also be severe and life threatening since most areas in the world has poor sanitation.

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Hepatitis B – It is a sexually transmitted disease which is caused by the virus HBV. It is usually spread by contact with infected blood, semen and some other body fluids. One can also be infected by:

  • Being bitten by an infected person.
  • Transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood products.
  • Use of contaminated injections during medical procedures.
  • Sharing personal items such as razor with an infected person.
  • Using a mother’s milk that is infected to feed a baby.

Hepatitis C – HCV is spread by direct contact with the blood of an infected person.  But unlike in persons with Hepatitis B, liver cancer is only increased in people with cirrhosis and only few Hepatitis C patients get cirrhosis. This is because their liver swells and become damaged.

Hepatitis D – Occurs only to patients who are infected with HBV. The combination of HBV and HDV infection result to a more serious disease with a worse outcome. Though Hepatitis B vaccine can provide protection for Hepatitis D, infection can still come through contact with infected blood, unprotected sex and perforation of the skin with infected needles.

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Hepatitis E – Like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E is transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food.  The spread of HEV is common in developing countries, which is why it is seen as an important cause of hepatitis outbreaks. Though an infected person’s liver swells, there is no long term consequence for it.

Common Symptoms Of Hepatitis

People with hepatitis are undiagnosed, because they’ve mistaken it for flu and sometimes there are no symptoms at all.  Most common symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Sometimes, there are other symptoms like:

  • Dark urine
  • Internal bleeding
  • Generalized itching
  • Jaundice
  • Light-colored stools

How To Prevent Hepatitis

Many actions can be taken to reduce the chance of being infected by hepatitis. Though there are safe and effective vaccines available to prevent HAV and HBV, the vaccine for HEV is not widely available. Up to this date, there is still no vaccine for HCV.

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Practice These Measures To Avoid Being Infected By Hepatitis: 

  • Get vaccines for hepatitis A and B.
  • Wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet.
  • Consume only cooked foods.
  • Avoid tap water when travelling to certain countries or regions.
  • Don’t share drug needles, inhalant devices, or take drugs.
  • Use latex condom and practice safe sex.
  • Don’t use an infected person’s personal items such as razors or toothbrushes.
  • Take precautions when getting tattoos, body piercing or manicures and pedicures. If possible, bring your own manicure kit. Make sure that the instruments are cleaned or disposable.
  • Take precaution too when travelling to areas with poor sanitation.
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