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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Viral Hepatitis

What is viral hepatitis?
Viral Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus infection. This results in liver cell damage and destruction.
Five main types of viruses causing Hepatitis have been identified:
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E - These types of hepatitis are usually spread by fecal-oral contact which implies that contaminated drinking water is the main source of these infections.
The various modes of spread can be:
  1. Touching an infected person's stool
  2. Consuming food made by someone who touched infected stool
  3. Drinking water made dirty by infected stool
  4. Having anal sexual intercourse with an infected person
Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B
  1. There are 400 million carriers of Hepatitis B in the world
  2. 45 million of these are present in India. In other words, 1 in every 20 Indians is a Hepatitis B carrier
  3. Of these, 4 million persons carry highly infectious virus in their blood
Hepatitis B virus infection is totally preventable as a safe and highly effective vaccine is easily available
Hepatitis C
  1. 1-2 % of Indian population suffers from Hepatitis C - About 20 million infected
  2. Once acquired, there is 80% chance of developing chronic disease
  3. Unlike Hepatitis B, no effective vaccine is available for its prevention.
Both Hepatitis B and C spread mainly through:
  1. Contaminated blood and blood products
  2. Sexual contact: especially with multiple partners. Although Hepatitis B can be transmitted between husband and wife, risk of transmission of Hepatitis C is very low in monogamous relationships.
  3. In addition, people with alcoholic liver disease may also contract Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D - This form occurs together with Hepatitis B, making the Hepatitis B infection worse.
Hepatitis viruses A and E cause only Acute Hepatitis.
On the other hand, Hepatitis viruses B (with or without D) and C in addition to acute hepatitis, can result in chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

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