Know the difference
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, a major organ in your body that helps fight infections, process nutrients, and filter your blood. Hepatitis is usually caused by a virus that can be infectious or non-infectious. Both infectious and non-infectious viruses can cause several health problems, especially if left untreated. There are five types of Hepatitis, A, B, C, D, and E, and they can all differ in their symptoms. Let’s break down the different types of hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and is very contagious. It spreads when someone ingests the virus through contact with someone who has the virus or by eating contaminated food. Hepatitis A can be found in your blood or stool. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, fatigue, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). These symptoms can last up to two months. Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and is spread through bodily fluids (blood, semen, or saliva) from an infected person to another person. The spread can happen through sexual contact, sharing needles, or from a mother to her baby during childbirth. Hepatitis B can be a short-term or long-term illness. Symptoms include loss of appetite, stomach pain, and fatigue. It can also cause life-threatening issues like liver disease or liver cancer. Hepatitis B is preventable through vaccination.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is spread through contact with blood from an infected person to another person. The spread can happen by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Often, people who have hepatitis C do not develop any symptoms. If someone does develop symptoms, it can be a sign of advanced liver disease. Hepatitis C is only preventable by avoiding behaviors that spread the disease. There is no vaccine, but treatment for Hepatitis C is available.
Hepatitis D is caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV) and is also known as delta hepatitis. Hepatitis D is only found in people who already have hepatitis B, and it is spread through blood and other bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, and joint pain. People who become infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis D simultaneously are known as coinfection. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis D but receiving the hepatitis B vaccine can help protect against a future Hepatitis D infection.
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) and is found in the stool of an infected person. Like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E is spread when someone ingests the virus. Hepatitis E is commonly found in developing countries where the water is contaminated by feces from people infected with hepatitis E. In developed counties, hepatitis E is not common but can make people sick when a person eats raw or undercooked pork, venison, or shellfish. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis E, and most people fully recover from the disease without any complications.
How can I keep myself safe?
The best way to keep yourself (and others) safe and prevent some hepatitis viruses is to get vaccinated. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that an “estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented by 2030 through vaccinations, diagnostic tests, and medicines.” Testing for hepatitis is also recommended for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, especially for individuals who have unprotected sex and who use injectable drugs. All hepatitis viruses can be found through a hepatitis blood test or a hepatic panel test.
May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and National Testing Day for Hepatitis is May 19, 2022. For more information about prevention or to get yourself tested, take control today and find a healthcare provider near you.