Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the liver. It typically occurs due to a viral infection. However, some other factors or an underlying condition may also lead to hepatitis. These include autoimmune diseases and the use of toxic substances, drugs and alcohol.
Hepatitis is classified into five types, depending on the virus that has caused the infection in the liver. These viruses are referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. Here is a look at each of the viruses causing a different type of hepatitis –
Hepatitis A - Hepatitis A results from an infection with the HAV (hepatitis A virus) present in an infected person’s faeces. Most often, the disease is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water. In other cases, unsafe sex practices may also lead to the spread of the HAV. People with hepatitis A usually observe mild symptoms and are able to recover completely with improved immunity. However, with delayed screening and lack of medical intervention, the symptoms may be severe and the condition, life-threatening. Those, living in areas with access to poor sanitation are at risk of hepatitis A. The condition can be prevented with effective and safe vaccines.
Hepatitis B - This particular type of hepatitis is passed on by through exposure to infectious bodily fluids, like semen, blood etc that contain the HBV (hepatitis B virus). The use of intravenous drugs, sexual intercourse or sharing needles and razors with an infected person puts you at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis B. It is also common for a newborn to get the HBV from an infected mother at childbirth or early childhood. Transmission may happen through HBV-contaminated blood transfusions. Healthcare workers prone to an accidental needle-stick injury are at an increased risk of hepatitis B. Nevertheless, vaccines are available for prevention.
Hepatitis C - Hepatitis C is caused by the HCV (hepatitis C virus). It is mostly passed on by coming in direct contact with infective blood, typically through contaminated needles and injections, blood transfusion during medical procedures, intravenous drug use, and rarely, unprotected sex. There is no vaccine currently available to ward off hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D - Hepatitis D is a rare and more serious type of the disease caused by the HDV (hepatitis D virus). The virus is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s blood. This type of hepatitis is common only in people, who have hepatitis B. The vaccine against hepatitis B also protects against hepatitis D.
Hepatitis E - Hepatitis E refers to a waterborne illness caused by the HEV (hepatitis E virus). This particular form of hepatitis mostly affects those residing in areas that have poor access to sanitation. It is transmitted by consuming contaminated food and water, ingested by faeces. Vaccine for hepatitis E is yet to be developed globally.
Treatment of hepatitis depends on the severity of symptoms and type of hepatitis you have been infected with. Antiviral medications and immunosuppressants are usually the first lines of treatment. Besides, vaccines and safe hygiene practices are strongly recommended to prevent the risk of the disease.