May is Hepatitis Awareness Month which serves to make people more familiar with the disease and ways to prevent it. Hepatitis is defined as an inflammation of the liver and can be caused by alcohol abuse, exposure to certain toxins, drug abuse, bacterial or viral infections. Many people aren’t even aware that they have hepatitis. The three main types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Each year approximately 15,000 people die in the United States die from either liver cancer or chronic liver disease caused by hepatitis.
Hepatitis A can be mild or severe and can last weeks to months. It is spread by contact with food, liquids and objects that are infected with fecal matter from a person who is infected. Hepatitis B can be a life long illness. It is transmitted by blood, semen, other bodily fluids and as a baby passes through the birth canal. Hepatitis C is spread through sharing needles and syringes with people who are infected. It also used to be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants but better screening techniques have virtually eliminated this risk.
Hepatitis awareness is important in making prevention better understood. A vaccine exists for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B for populations that may be at risk. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a physician at Jamaica Hospital to discuss this illness please call 718-206-6742.
The medical community has labeled viral hepatitis, “The Silent Epidemic,” because there are millions of people living in the United States with some form of the disease. What is most alarming is 65% of these people are unaware that they are infected and are unknowingly contributing to the rapid spread of the virus.
Viral hepatitis is characterized by the inflammation of the liver and is most commonly caused by the hepatitis A, B or C virus. Each type of hepatitis has its severities and can develop into chronic or life-threatening conditions, such as liver cancer, liver failure or cirrhosis (scarring and dysfunction of the liver). While the degree of severity may differ with each strain, the advanced symptoms that present themselves are similar.
Symptoms may include:
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and tongue)
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Light colored feces
- Muscle or joint pain
Transmission of viral hepatitis differs with each form of the virus.
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) – Is caused by consuming infected food and water or anal to oral contact during sex. Prevention includes washing your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, drinking bottled or treated water and eating food that has been thoroughly cleaned.
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – Is a sexually transmitted disease. HBV is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. It is spread by contact with bodily fluids such as blood or semen. Prevention includes practicing safe sex, using clean syringes, tattoo or acupuncture needles and not sharing personal items such as razor or toothbrushes.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) – Is transmitted by direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. Prevention includes covering wounds, not sharing personal effects such as razors, manicure equipment or toothbrushes and using sterilized needles.
It is important for people to know their status and help combat the rapid acceleration of viral hepatitis. Public health organizations such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) encourage people to get screened for the disease whether or not they are displaying symptoms. Individuals who are infected should seek treatment and exercise methods to prevent transmission.Health organizations are also increasing their efforts in educating the public about Hepatitis by promoting campaigns during Hepatitis Awareness Month, which is designated as May in the United States.