What is hepatitis? What are the different kinds, and how are they contracted?

Dr. Ravikumar discusses what hepatitis is, the different kinds, and how they are contracted.?Click play to watch the video or?read the transcript.

What is hepatitis? What are the different kinds, and how are they contracted?

Hepatitis by the definable sense is inflammation or irritation of the liver. The cause of hepatitis is different so it could be drug induced, it could be trauma induced, it could be autoimmune induced, or it could be infectiously induced. But the blanket term hepatitis is actually anything that causes inflammation or irritation of the liver.

Okay, so hepatitis A is a virus that is most commonly transmitted through contaminated food or body fluids. So, you will commonly see that in people that have recently traveled to places that don't have hygienic conditions. It tends to be a self limiting process meaning that the body is able to fight off most infections with supportive care through the hospital's resources and through the eyes of a primary care physician. Hepatitis B is a virus that tends to be transmitted through body fluids mostly and that is commonly seen in sexually transmitted diseases, even though less so, IV drug use, contaminated needle products, or any type of occupational exposure to contaminated body fluids. Hepatitis B actually is the only hepatitis that actually has a proven vaccination against it. And people who are vaccinated against hepatitis B are able to fight off infections very well and the efficacy is almost ninety percent and greater actually. We commonly immunize children and healthcare workers for hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C is a relatively new diagnosis of a class of hepatitis, it's been around for maybe fifty years. Hepatitis C is actually predominantly transmitted through contaminated fluids. Commonly seen with people that engage in IV drug use, people at high risk activities such as sex workers or people that are exposed to body fluids. The reason hepatitis C has now gotten a lot more attention in the media is that several decades ago there was no testing done for any blood products for hepatitis C because it was actually unknown. So some people, especially elderly people may have had blood products or transfusions that may have been contaminated with hepatitis C through no one's knowledge. So there is an incentive ... there is actually a process to get most elderly people screened for hepatitis C. That is a process going through right now for elderly people for testing. Younger people do not have to worry about it. We routinely test all bloodborne products and any type of fluids, including IV fluids, for hepatitis C regularly. So, the problem has been self resolved recently.

   

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. While it can be caused by heavy alcohol use or some infections, in the U.S. it is most often caused by a virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are five different types of hepatitis – A, B, C, D, and E. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes each type as follows:

  • Hepatitis A – Found in the feces of someone who is infected, this is most often transmitted by eating or drinking contaminated water or food. It is also possible to spread this virus through some types of sexual activities. This most-often affects people in areas of the world with poor sanitation.
  • Hepatitis B – This type is transmitted through infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. It can be spread from mother to infant, through transfusions of contaminated blood, and through drug use.
  • Hepatitis C – Most often, this is spread through infected blood used in transfusions and through drug use. It can also be passed through sexual activity, but that is less common.
  • Hepatitis D – This is an infection that can happen only to people who already have Hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis E – This is passed through eating and drinking contaminated food and water. It is most common in developing parts of the world.

You can get vaccines to safely prevent hepatitis A, B, and E. The vaccine for hepatitis B also prevents the hepatitis D infection.

Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types in the U.S.

For more information about hepatitis, talk with your doctor.

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