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All You Need to Know About the Hepatitis Disease & Testing

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. Most commonly, Hepatitis results from a viral infection, but there are other possible causes. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 300 million people live with chronic Hepatitis globally. {SOURCE}

Recently, WHO noted a fresh outbreak of acute Hepatitis in children across the world. And as the COVID pandemic has taught us, the best way to combat a disease is to build awareness and equip the medical infrastructure for efficient testing processes. Let’s begin with awareness.

Here are some questions we often get asked about Hepatitis from patients –

1.  What causes Hepatitis?

In most cases, Hepatitis is caused by a viral infection. Still, there are many other causes, such as consuming certain medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. If a pregnant woman has Hepatitis, she may pass it on to her unborn child.

 

2.  Are there different kinds of Hepatitis?

Yes. Hepatitis has five main viral classifications: A, B, C, D, and E. The difference in the classifications is as follows –

·       Hepatitis A – Results from an infection with the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). It is an acute short-term disease.

·       Hepatitis B – Caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). It is an ongoing chronic condition.

·       Hepatitis C – Hepatitis C comes from the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). This virus is a common bloodborne virus and represents a long-term condition.

·       Hepatitis D – It is only possible to contract a Hepatitis D infection if the HBV virus is present in your body. 5% of the people infected with Hepatitis B get Hepatitis D also.

·       Hepatitis E – The Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) is waterborne and common in poor sanitation or hygiene areas. The HEV is particularly dangerous to pregnant women.

 

3.  What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?

Those who have chronic forms of Hepatitis like B and C do not experience any symptoms unless the virus begins to affect their liver. However, other forms of acute Hepatitis, such as A and E, start exhibiting symptoms almost immediately after contracting the virus. Some of the most common symptoms of Hepatitis are –

·       Flu-like symptoms

·       Abdominal pain

·       Tiredness / Fatigue

·       Pale stool

·       Dark urine

·       Unexplained weight loss

·       Loss of appetite

·       Jaundice-like symptoms including yellow eyes and skin

 

4.  How do labs like Labassure test for Hepatitis?

If your doctor suspects that you may have some form of Hepatitis, they will refer you to a lab for tests. Some of the commonly recommended tests are –

·       Liver Function Test – Uses a blood sample to check if your liver functions well.

·       Blood Tests – There are various blood tests to check for a Hepatitis virus in your body, like :-

o   Hepatitis A Virus IgM Antibody (HAV IgM) – This test looks for antibodies IgM in the blood which helps in identifying that the patient is infected with Hepatitis A virus or not.

o   Hepatitis A Virus IgG Antibody (HAV IgG) – It is done to detect past HAV infections and to determine if an individual has developed immunity from a previous infection or vaccination.

o   Hepatitis B Envelope Antibody (Anti HBe) – It helps in determination of infectivity of HBV in a person. If it is positive it indicates the onset of recovery.

o   Hepatitis B Surface Antibody (HBsAb) – Helps in determining the infectivity of HB virus. It generally rises when the virus goes into inactive state.

o   Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAG) – It is used to evaluate the level of hepatitis B antigen in the blood which helps to monitor the health status of infected person.

o   Hepatitis B Core Antibody (Anti HBc) – This test is used to find out whether the patient is actively infected with hepatitis B virus(HBV).

o   Hepatitis B Surface Antigen (HBsAg) – This detects the actual presence of hepatitis B virus (called the “surface antigen”) in the blood.

o   Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Viral Load (PCR) – It detects the amount of virus present in the blood stream.

·       Ultrasound – An ultrasound examination allows the doctor to check the state of all the organs in your abdomen. They check for fluid in the stomach, liver damage, tumours, or abnormalities in your gall bladder.

·       Liver Biopsy – A liver biopsy is recommended to assess your liver for damage due to Hepatitis. For this test, the doctor will extract a tissue sample from your liver.

 

5.  How is Hepatitis treated?

Treatment for Hepatitis depends on the type of Hepatitis you have and the extent of infection. The best course of action is to consult your doctor and follow their recommended treatment.

·       Hepatitis A – HAV is a short-term illness. However, it may cause discomfort. In such cases, doctors usually recommend bed rest.

·       Hepatitis B – Chronic Hepatitis B calls for antiviral medications. As this is a long-term condition, you may have to get regular medical evaluations and monitoring.

·       Hepatitis C – Antiviral medications may be prescribed if you have HCV. Your doctor may also ask you to get some more tests done to determine the best course of treatment.

·       Hepatitis D – The medication for HDV differs according to the extent of infection and the presence of HBV in the body.

·       Hepatitis E – As of now, there are no medical therapies to treat Hepatitis E. However, the infection often resolves on its own.

Busting Myths Related to Hepatitis

MYTH 1 – Hepatitis spreads through casual contacts, such as sharing food, using common utensils, or shaking hands.

FACT – Hepatitis does not spread through casual contact. Usually, the cause for spread is sexual contact, mother to child (before birth), through blood by using objects like needles, razors, and tattoos.

MYTH 2 – All kinds of Hepatitis are caused due to poor hygiene

FACT – While some types of Hepatitis, such as A and E, spread through contaminated food or water, all kinds of Hepatitis will not spread through bad hygiene or sanitation.

MYTH 3 – Hepatitis B is a death sentence

FACT – Even though Hepatitis B is currently incurable, it can effectively be treated with antiviral drugs. People with chronic Hepatitis have an average life expectancy.

MYTH 3 – There are no vaccines for Hepatitis

FACT – The Hepatitis A and B vaccines have been in existence for many years now. Talk to your paediatrician to ensure that your child receives the HAV vaccine between 12 to 23 months. Usually, this vaccination is given in a series of two doses.

The B vaccine is usually given to all newborn children in a series of 3 shots over the first 6 months of childhood. The Hepatitis A and B vaccines also exist for adults. Vaccination for Hepatitis B effectively prevents Hepatitis D also.

Vaccines for Hepatitis C and E are yet to be developed.

 

Finally, it is safe to say that medical science is progressing well. Those who are aware may easily prevent a Hepatitis infection in their lives. Vaccination, good hygiene, and immediate testing can help prevent many diseases and prevent medical conditions from worsening. Stay informed and stay safe.

 

REFERENCE LINKS

1.     https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis#complications

2.     https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/2022-DON376

3.     https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00816-x

4.     https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-13112-0

5.     https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/world-liver-day-you-may-get-hepatitis-c-sharing-nail-clippers-towels-of-infected-person-101650310578399.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/hepatitis-c-vaccine-development#research

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