Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting
or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis
viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other
infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune
diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted
through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices
can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people
making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections.
However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening. Most
people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with
this virus. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body
fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the
time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood. Transmission
may also occur through transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood
products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through
injection drug use. HBV also poses a risk to healthcare workers who sustain
accidental needle stick injuries while caring for infected-HBV patients.
Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This may happen
through transfusions of HCV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated
injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use.
Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common. There is
no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection
of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome.
Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food.
HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the
world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease
in developed countries. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection
have been developed but are not widely available.
Ask our doctor about getting tested for Hepatitis!