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Insurance Article

Hepatitis, a silent disease: Know the symptoms, treatment & prevention

July 27 2020
All you need to know about Hepatitis
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With “Hepatitis-free future” being the theme of World Hepatitis Day, this year, WHO is striving to bring down new hepatitis infections by 90% and deaths by 65% in comparison to 2015 figures. The focus mainly is on preventing the transmission of Hepatitis B infection from mothers to babies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is posing a threat to the progress of meeting these targets. Hepatitis continues to claim the lives of many when COVID-19 seems to have gone nowhere. Hence, it becomes all the more important to be aware of the 5 types of Hepatitis virus, the symptoms they lead to, the health problems they cause, their treatments and the steps you can take to prevent hepatitis.

What is Hepatitis?

A hepatitis infection manifests in the form of liver inflammation. It is a group of viral infections affecting the liver. It can also be caused by excessive intake of alcohol, autoimmune response, a side-effect of toxins, drugs, etc.

What are the common symptoms of Hepatitis?

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain

Hepatitis A (HAV)

It spreads through the consumption of contaminated food or water, and due to lack of sanitation.

Symptoms:

Its symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and mild fever. Hepatitis A is common in children.

Vaccine:

1 to 2 year old children can be given the Hepatitis A vaccine. Also, once a person is infected with Hepatitis A, their body becomes immune against it.

Treatment:

While there is no medicine to treat it, Hepatitis A usually goes in a few weeks’ times. The symptoms are treated with medication. The infection doesn’t have a long-lasting impact on the liver.

Prevention:
  • Wash your hands with soap before you cook your meals, and before you have them.
  • Drink safe water, preferably bottled or boiled.
  • Avoid street food and beverages.
  • Don’t eat undercooked meat.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

According to WHO, around 40 million people in India are infected by Hepatitis B. It can be transmitted from infected mother to a newborn, sexual contact, use of contaminated syringes, needles, etc. It spreads through infected blood, semen and other bodily fluids. After exposure, in the first three months, an infected person shows no symptoms. This can last from 2 to 12 weeks. However, the infection from this asymptomatic individual can still be contagious.

Symptoms:

Its symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, loss of appetite, muscle pain, fever, dark urine and weakness. It is one of the two most common Hepatitis infection in India.

Vaccine:

Three shots of the Hepatitis B vaccine are given to babies over a period of 6 months.

Treatment:

There is no medicine to treat Hepatitis B. Once infected, an individual has to keep taking medication on regularly. Timely treatment is necessary to keep the infection from causing the chronic liver condition.

Prevention:
  • Use condoms to practice safe sex.
  • Avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and earrings or body rings.
  • Avoid street food and beverages.
  • If you are about to get a body piercing, tattoo, or acupuncture done, ensure new, sterile needles are used.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

It is transmitted similarly like Hepatitis B through blood and bodily fluids. Infected mothers can pass it to their babies. As per WHO figures, India has 6 million people infected with Hepatitis C. Most of them don’t know that they are infected and end up transmitting the virus to others unknowingly.

Symptoms:

People may experience no symptoms for years until the infection begins to damage the liver. Its symptoms include fatigue, fever, joint and muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, itchy skin and sore muscles.

Vaccine:

A vaccine is not yet available for Hepatitis C infection.

Treatment:

Treatment for Hepatitis C consists of antiviral medication. It can last for 3 to 6 months.

Prevention:
  • Use condoms for safe sex.
  • Do not share personal care products like razors and toothbrushes.

Hepatitis D (HDV)

It is also known as delta hepatitis. It infects those who have Hepatitis B infection and will stay in the body only if Hepatitis B is present. It is transmitted on coming in contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D and Hepatitis B infection together can cause severe infection. It is crucial to get timely treatment in such cases.

Symptoms:

Its symptoms include fatigue, mild fever, vomiting and dark urine.

Vaccine:

Vaccine for Hepatitis D is not available. However, the hepatitis B vaccine also serves as protection for Hepatitis D.

Treatment:

Medicines are given for up to a year to treat Hepatitis D, but at present, there is no known treatment.

Prevention:
  • Vaccination for Hepatitis B.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Ensure sterile needles are used for drug injections.

Hepatitis E (HEV)

It is transmitted by drinking contaminated water and due to poor sanitation. It spreads when there is faecal-oral contact.

Symptoms:

Its symptoms include loss of appetite, jaundice, nausea, dark urine, joint pain, vomiting, fatigue and fever. Usually, they develop 15-60 days after exposure.

Vaccine:

Currently, there is no vaccine available in India for Hepatitis E.

Treatment:

No specific treatment is known for Hepatitis E. It usually goes on its own in 4 to 6 weeks. Treatment is given to ensure the infected individual gets enough rest and stays hydrated.

Prevention:
  • Drink boiled, treated or bottled water.
  • Have well-cooked meals.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.

What are the other essential steps to take in your fight against Hepatitis?

  • Hepatitis is a silent killer. Most of the affected people are unaware of having the infection. The only way to stay ahead of it is by taking the necessary vaccination, going for health screening, early detection and timely treatment.
  • Hepatitis B and C are chronic infections. These can set you back significantly if you don’t have health insurance. Get one that covers hospitalisation for them or buy an add-on for critical illness if need be.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.

Source:

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-07-2020-world-hepatitis-day-fast-tracking-the-elimination-of-hepatitis-b-among-mothers-and-children

https://www.who.int/southeastasia/news/feature-stories/detail/access-for-all-how-the-indian-state-of-punjab-is-honing-in-on-hepatitis

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