The World Health Organization (WHO) in a July 2016 report, estimates that 400 million people worldwide have hepatitis B and C. This is 10 times the number of those infected with HIV.
In 2014 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that close to 20,000 Americans died from Hepatitis C alone and approximately 1.25 million people have chronic hepatitis B.
Both hepatitis B, C, and D are preventable and treatable today.
- The liver is in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen just below the rib cage in 99.9% of people. Note: In an extremely rare condition called situs inversus, organ placement is reversed.
- The liver filters toxins from the body.
- It produces bile for digestion and stores glycogen, vitamins, and minerals.
- Synthesis of proteins and blood factors occur here.
- It has many other functions. The liver and kidneys can be viewed as the body’s major filters.
Hepatitis in general:
- It is an inflammation of the liver. Hepatic (liver), – itis (inflammation)
- Lettered (A,B,C,D,E) and etc.) forms of hepatitis are viral forms.
- Because of abnormal liver function, old blood cells cannot be broken down properly and this causes jaundice, a yellow color in the whites (sclera) of the eyes and the skin turns yellow (icterus)
- Other causes are heavy alcohol use, medications, toxins, seafood, and illegal drugs. It is also seen with yellow fever, mono-nucleosis, malaria, and parasitic infections (strictly speaking, the latter two are not hepatitis but cause jaundice) among other conditions.
- Most cases resolve spontaneously.
Many people are unaware of having hepatitis.
- Types B, C, and D have chronic (long lasting) forms and can lead to liver cancer.
Types of viral hepatitis, how they are spread, and other facts:
- Spread by fecal (poop) oral transmission. Usually from contaminated food or water.
- Occurs in epidemics (groups of people)
- Vaccinations are available
- Generally takes 4 weeks for vaccine to be effective.
- Spread by infected blood. Usually needle/ razor sharing, saliva, semen (unprotected sex), through open wounds, and transfusions (extremely rare).
- Does not typically occur in epidemics.
- Vaccinations are available and are now recommended for all newborns.
- Spread from mother to infant.
- Chronic hepatitis B requires long term treatment and monitoring.
- 350 million people worldwide have this in the chronic form according to the WHO.
- The vaccination for hepatitis B also prevents hepatitis D.
- Spread by blood transmission and other body fluids like hepatitis B. Note: If there is a cut on your lips and you share a joint or cigarette with an infected individual you run the risk of infection.
- Does not occur in epidemics.
- Has a chronic form.
- Medications are available to treat over the course of weeks.
- There is no vaccination.
- Spread through wounds and blood.
- Uncommon in the U.S.
- Occurs together with hepatitis D.
- Does not occur in epidemics.
- Chronic potential.
- Vaccination for hepatitis B gives immunity to hepatitis D.
- Passed from mother to infant.
- There is no specific treatment.
- Is a water born virus.
- Usually seen in epidemics from unsanitary water ingestion.
- There is no specific treatment and usually resolves on its own.
- Does not cause liver cancer.
- Vaccination approved in China only.
- The best practice is prevention by avoiding contaminated food and water sources. See: Prevention and Treatment of Traveler’s Diarrhea, not sharing needles, razors, or tooth brushes, protecting open wounds, and getting vaccinated.
- The treatment of hepatitis is long-term as is the follow-up monitoring. The possibility of advancing to the chronic form and liver cancer is also a possibility. For these reasons, I highly recommend the vaccine for A and B hepatitis.
- Eating raw oysters and poorly cooked clams can put you at risk for hepatitis A.
- Some vaccines must be given in a series starting up to 6 months prior to travel. Check with your physician.
The first few days, either no symptoms or;
- Usually begins like a viral infection or the flu
- Nausea, vomiting, mild abdominal pain
- Low grade fever
- Joint and muscle aching
As the infection continues;
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- The urine darkens
- Hives, rash, and/or itching skin
- Stool becomes much lighter
Other than prevention and supportive care, little can be done in the field. It is imperative to get to a medical facility where testing can be done and equally important to follow-up.