Why you should get vaccinated against hepatitis
Hepatitis is a general term referring to inflammation of the liver. It may result from various causes, both infectious that is viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic organisms and noninfectious e.g. alcohol, drugs, autoimmune diseases and metabolic diseases. It affect the general functioning of the liver in excretion and breakdown of bilirubin.
There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. While they all cause liver disease, they differ in important ways including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness. It is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person. Almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A with a lifelong immunity. However, a very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could die from severe hepatitis. WHO estimates that hepatitis A caused approximately 7 134 deaths in 2016 and accounts for 0.5% of the overall hepatitis mortality. It is associated with a lack of safe water, and poor sanitation and hygiene. In other words, a combination of safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation, hand washing and the hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. It is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids like semen and saliva. It is the most prevalent with about 27 million people living with it. It has no cure however, vaccines have been discovered to prevent it.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and that implies that ny procedure that lead to blood exposure is a possible route of transmission. Although access to diagnosis and treatment is low, antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. Research is still ongoing to find an effective vaccine.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is a virus that requires hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its replication. HDV infection occurs only simultaneously or as super-infection with HBV. The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids. HDV-HBV co-infection is considered the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis due to more rapid progression towards liver-related death and hepatocellular carcinoma. Currently, treatment success rates are generally low. Hepatitis D infection can be prevented by hepatitis B immunization.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus known as hepatitis E virus (HEV). The virus is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, principally via contaminated water. Transmission of HEV and hepatitis E disease can be reduced by maintaining quality standards for public water supplies and establishing proper disposal systems for human faeces.
Typical signs and symptoms of hepatitis include:
- Mild fever
- Reduced appetite (anorexia)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain,
- Itching (without skin lesions), skin rash,
- Joint pain
- Pale stool
- Dark urine
- Hepatomegaly(enlarged liver)
These symptoms can last for 1–6 weeks.
In general, complications of viral hepatitis may include the following:
- Acute or subacute hepatic necrosis
- Chronic active hepatitis
- Chronic hepatitis
- Hepatic failure
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with HBV or HCV infection
There are 2 vaccines that protect against hepatitis B: The hepatitis B vaccine protects infants, children, and adults from hepatitis B. The hepatitis A and B combination vaccine protects adults from both hepatitis B and hepatitis A.
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