Hepatitis is a disorder that causes your liver to swell and effects its ability to perform at maximum capacity.
There are many different causes of hepatitis but the ones that we’ll be discussing today are all caused by viruses.
It’s particularly important to know about viral hepatitis because all of these strains are contagious. The potential severity of viral forms of hepatitis vary from strain to strain, but all of them can cause irreversible damage to your liver which can lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or even death.
Hepatitis A is possibly the easiest to contract because it’s caused by contact with small particles of fecal matter that are present in places that you may not even think about.
Fortunately, most people who contract Hepatitis A recover fully and mild cases don’t even require treatment. This strain is especially prevalent in places such as daycare centers because of the method of transportation.
Some of the causes of this strain of viral hepatitis include:
• Eating contaminated food – If someone with hepatitis A handles your food without washing their hands after they use the restroom, your food may be contaminated
• Drinking contaminated water – If a water supply is polluted with sewage waste then the virus may be present
• Eating contaminated shellfish – Raw shellfish may carry the hepatitis A virus if it came from water contaminated with sewage
• Blood transfusions – this is extremely rare
• Close contact with somebody that has hepatitis A – even if they don’t have any symptoms, you can still catch it
• Sex – you can contract the virus by having sex with an infected person
The best way to avoid contracting hepatitis A is simple hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and practice safe sex. For everyone that loves those raw oysters and clams, be aware that they may be soaked in more than hot sauce!
Hepatitis B is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in the world and is extremely contagious, partly because the virus can live outside the body for up to a week. There is a hepatitis B vaccination and as with all other forms of hepatitis, it’s avoidable. There are two different types of this strain.
Acute Hepatitis B is short-lived and will go away. You may not even need treatment but you should be tested to be sure that the virus has cleared your body.
Chronic Hepatitis B lasts for six months or longer. If your body can’t fight off the infection, you may have it forever and may develop other complications such as liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B is spread via contact with bodily fluids in some of the following ways:
• Exposure to blood, semen or other fluids at work
• Unprotected Sex
• Sharing needles during drug use
• Being stuck with an infected needle
• From mother to unborn child
There is a simple test for hepatitis B as well as a vaccination that many employers will pay for. Since chronic hepatitis B may not present any symptoms until it’s advanced to liver disease, it’s a good idea to get tested periodically.
Hepatitis C is extremely similar to hepatitis B and is contracted in the same manner. Unlike B, Hepatitis C is chronic and symptoms may not appear for many years until the damage is already done to your liver.
Initial symptoms may be mild and include:
• Pain or tenderness in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen
• Muscle or joint soreness
Hepatitis D is a different beast than the first three strains. It can only be contracted when the hepatitis B virus is present because it lives in the hep B viral shell.
Fortunately, it’s only present in about 5% of all people with hepatitis B. It’s contracted in the same manner as hepatitis B and may make symptoms worse. Hepatitis D is usually acute but can be chronic as well.
Like hepatitis A, hepatitis E is contracted via contact with fecal matter that contains the virus. Unlike A, however, it’s uncommon in developed countries and people who are at most risk include residents of and travelers to developing countries where water and food sanitation may not be the best.
The best way to avoid contracting hepatitis E is to practice good personal hygiene such as hand washing and avoid drinking water or eating food from unknown sources. Hepatitis E usually clears up on its own but may take several weeks or months.
All forms of hepatitis can cause permanent damage to your liver and may even result in cirrhosis, liver cancer or death. You should do everything possible to avoid contracting these viruses because many of them have no cure once you’ve contracted them.
If you work around bodily fluids, speak to your employer about providing the hepatitis B vaccination.