July 28th is observed as World Hepatitis Day every year. The theme for 2019 is “Know. Prevent. Test. Treat. Eliminate Hepatitis.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 325 million people suffer from viral hepatitis B and C worldwide. It is one of the major infectious diseases and is responsible for 1.4 million deaths a year. Around 80% of people living with hepatitis lack diagnosis, treatment and prevention measures. Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver which is classified into five major types namely hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. However, hepatitis B and C are the most common ones that are responsible for the most cases of morbidity and mortality caused by hepatitis. On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, let’s understand the causes of hepatitis and ways it can spread so as to prevent the disease.
8 Common Causes Of Hepatitis
The most common causes of hepatitis in the world are hepatitis viruses although certain drugs, alcohol and autoimmune diseases can also impact the liver health. The Hepatitis B, C and D viruses are mostly transmitted through infected body fluids whereas hepatitis A and E are spread by ingestion of contaminated food and water. In the case of acute liver infection, there may be no symptoms or very limited symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the ski, dark-colored urine, fatigue, nausea and abdominal pain. Vaccines provide protection against four major viruses except hepatitis C virus.
There are numerous ways hepatitis can be spread from an infected person to another. Knowing about these modes of transmission can go a long way to lower your risk and prevent hepatitis. Here are a few ways you can get hepatitis.
1. Sharing household items
Never ever share your household items such as toothbrushes, nail cutters, and razors with anyone. This is because, hepatitis B and C virus can be spread via blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. In fact, hepatitis B can spread even in the absence of visible blood. Sharing medical equipment such as glucose monitor of an infected person can up the risk of infection as these may be contaminated with small amounts of blood.
2. Getting tattoos and body piercings
If you are planning to get a tattoo or body piercing (including ear piercing), then it is wise to get it from a regulated setting. This is because exposure to blood from needlesticks or sharp instruments is high. Getting a tattoo from a setting that fails to use disposable needles for every new client can up the risk of infection.
3. Sharing/using unsterilized needles
Did you know sharing of needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs can put your at risk of hepatitis? This is because, if the needle/syringe has been used by a person suffering from hepatitis, then sharing the same can also increase your risk of getting hepatitis. The same rule applies when going for acupuncture, which is a Chinese form of medicine that involves the use of needles to provide respite from pain and other health problems.
4. Getting in contact with infected fluids
The risk of getting in close contact with infected blood or bodily fluids is high if you are working in any health care settings. Hence, if you are employed in a lab or work as a nurse or doctor, you need to follow proper precautionary measures. As healthcare professional who draw or test blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person carry a high risk of getting infected with hepatitis.
5. During blood transfusion & organ donation
It is a noble deed to donate blood and register for organ donation. However, it is important to follow the procedure carefully and always donate blood from a registered source which strictly abides by the safety rules and regulations of donation. If you are receiving blood or any organ then ensure that the blood/organs are screened for hepatitis to lower your risk of contracting an infection.
6. Prenatal transmission
Prenatal transmission means from mother to child during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is infected with the hepatitis virus, then there is a high chance that she might pass on the virus to her child during childbirth. It can happen if a woman suffers from hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection. This is the reason why prenatal tests are a must for every pregnant woman as it not only helps to treat an infection in the mother but also lower the risk of its transmission to her kid.
7. Unprotected Sex with a person suffering from hepatitis
One of the most common ways you can get hepatitis B and C virus infection is having sex with a person infected with hepatitis. This includes having vaginal intercourse, anal sex and oral sex. Also, homosexual men are known to have a high risk of getting hepatitis through sex. It is best to abstain from sex if your partner has hepatitis. Also, condoms can provide around 90% protection against Hepatitis B and not 100% protection when used correctly and consistently.
8. Through contaminated food and water
Hepatitis A and E spread primarily through consumption of contaminated water and food. It can be spread through the fecal-oral route or direct contact with infected person. For example, water when contaminated with feces of a person infected with hepatitis or food when cooked using contaminated water can up the risk of hepatitis. This is the reason why it is advised to follow proper hygiene and sanitation, especially during the rainy season. You can also get hepatitis A infection if you don’t wash your hands after using the restroom.
Let’s do our bit to spread awareness about the causes and risk factors of hepatitis and ways to prevent it by sharing this article with everyone you know. This World Hepatitis Day, let’s pledge to care for your family and society.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
1. World Hepatitis Day 2019. WHO Campaigns. The World Health Organization(WHO).
2. What is hepatitis? The World Health Organization(WHO).
3. Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public. Hepatitis B Information. Viral Hepatitis. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
4. Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public. Hepatitis C Information. Viral Hepatitis. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).