Living With Hepatitis
World Hepatitis Day: 28 July
Every 28 July, the world comes together to raise awareness of viral hepatitis.
The theme for this year, I Can’t Wait, serves to do the following:
- Emphasise the need to speed up the fight against viral hepatitis.
- Highlight the importance of testing and treatment for those who need it.
- Raise the voices of people affected by viral hepatitis.
See More: Affinity Health on Hepatitis
Personal Story – Hepatitis A
In 2012, Grant Muller, his wife Kaity, and their toddler Chloe contracted Hepatitis A.
Grant explains he was in a shopping mall when he experienced sudden fatigue.
“It’s hard to explain. But it was as if someone sapped the energy from my body. One second I was fine; the next, I wasn’t. I was so tired I could barely stand on my own two feet.”
Grant went home and fell asleep, only waking up the following morning. Then, Kaity also started experiencing dizziness and stomach cramps. Chloe, their little girl, began vomiting and ran a high fever.
“I thought that maybe we had contracted yuppie flu because my stepfather had yuppie flu. The symptoms were similar. But when we changed Chloe’s nappy and saw her faeces were white and her urine was dark brown, we went to the hospital. The doctors ran blood tests, and we were all diagnosed with hepatitis A.”
While Kaity and Grant could go home, Chloe’s symptoms were more severe. She was in the hospital for two weeks. The family were later notified of a hepatitis A outbreak at Chloe’s day care. The school was closed for several weeks.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a broad term that refers to liver inflammation. Liver inflammation can result from various viruses:
- Viral hepatitis
- Genetic disorders
- Overactive immune system
- Autoimmune hepatitis
Hepatitis can be acute. That causes the sudden appearance and then disappearance of symptoms. It can also be more chronic. That causes more subtle signs and progressive liver damage over time.
There are five different types of hepatitis.
- Hepatitis A is a food-borne illness transmitted via contaminated water and unwashed food. It is the easiest transmitted, especially in children, but it is also the least likely to harm the liver. It is usually mild and resolves completely within six months.
- Hepatitis B can pass from mother to child via the following:
- Contaminated blood
- Body fluids
- Carrying the virus for many years can cause long-term liver damage. It can also cause liver cancer and liver cirrhosis in some cases.
- Hepatitis C is only passed from mother to child during childbirth. It can also spread through infected blood. Omit, it can also cause liver cancer and cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis D is only found in people who also have hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis E is most common in Africa, Asia, and South America. Excessive or high doses of generally safe medications can cause hepatitis (drug-induced hepatitis).
Symptoms of Hepatitis
If you have chronic hepatitis, like hepatitis B or C, you may not experience symptoms until it damages the liver. People with acute hepatitis may show symptoms as soon as they contract the hepatitis virus.
Common infectious hepatitis symptoms include:
- Tenderness in the abdomen, particularly in the upper right corner
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes)
- Dark urine
- Stools in light colours
- Fluid retention
Hepatitis diagnosis follows these criteria:
- A physical exam will check for a swollen, enlarged liver.
- Blood tests to look for elevated liver enzymes when the liver has infection or damage. Also, blood tests look for the presence of any of the five viruses that cause hepatitis.
- An ultrasound of the liver checks for any abnormal changes.
- When other tests are inconclusive, a liver biopsy may confirm suspected inflammation. Biopsies determine the exact degree of liver damage.
People who have never been immunised should get vaccinated. Vaccinations against hepatitis B and hepatitis A curb infection. No vaccines are available for hepatitis C, D, or E.
Hepatitis has no cure once it has occurred. Treatment focuses on preventing further liver damage, reversing existing damage, and relieving symptoms.
The good news is that most cases of acute hepatitis will clear up on their own. Certain medications may help keep the overactive immune system in check. They may prevent further attacks on the liver in autoimmune hepatitis.
“Hepatitis is a serious disease that affects millions of people around the world. TB and HIV deaths have been decreasing. But hepatitis deaths are tragically increasing,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“It is critical that communities see that both hepatitis A and B viruses are preventable. That will reduce the number of infections.”
Learn More: Shining a Spotlight on Hepatitis
About Affinity Health
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