World Hepatitis Day: Five ways to get the disease, five ways to prevent it

Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for about 1.34 million deaths per year.

There are five main types of Hepatitis virus referred to as Types A, B, C, D, and E which your body is prone to.

On World Hepatitis Day as dedicated by World Health Organisation (WHO) on July 28 each year, PREMIUM TIMES takes a look at how you can contract and prevent this disease.

1. Both HAV (Hepatitis A Virus) and HEV (Hepatitis E Virus) can be contracted through contact with the faeces of infected people. This is the reason why using and maintaining clean bathrooms as important as consuming safe and hygienic water and food.

2. Exposure to infected blood can lead to HCV (Hepatitis C). If you end up using the same needle or syringe that a Hepatitis patient has, you can get it as well. Health workers, when accidentally jabbed with used needles, can also contract it.

3. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, you can also get Hepatitis from certain kinds of sexual contacts. Sex with someone who has a sexually transmitted disease or HIV can lead to Hepatitis, and so can rough sex that leads to bleeding.

4. Hepatitis can also be passed down genetically. If your mother contracted the disease while pregnant with you, you have a higher risk of catching the virus later in life.

5. The CDC has also noted that unhygienic tattoo parlours can infect you with Hepatitis. The same goes for places that provide unhygienic body art or piercing services.

Note: It’s important to note that Hepatitis does not spread through all sorts of contact with infected people–like sharing utensils, holding hands, hugging, kissing, and being near them when they sneeze or cough.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

There might be no early sign and symptoms of Hepatitis until some weeks after infection and in some cases until a later stage, that is why it is called a silent killer. The later stage is usually referred to as the acute phase.

Symptoms for A, B and C are most time same and these include but not limited to:

1. Abdominal pain

2. A constant headache and fever

3. Loss of appetite

4. Joint pain

5. Nausea and Vomiting

6. Weakness and fatigue

7. Yellowing of skin and the white part of the eyes ball (Jaundice)

How it spreads

1. Unprotected sex and multiple sex partners

2. Taking contaminated food and water for Hepatitis A

3.Sharing sharp objects or toothbrush

4. Unscreened/ Unsafe blood for transfusion (Especially C)

5. Mother to child transmission (Especially B)

Top five tips to save yourself from the hepatitis virus:

1. Stay clean
Practicing good hygiene and sanitation will help reduce your risk of contracting Hepatitis A and E.
Always wash your hands, clean fruits and vegetables before eating, stay away from under cooked meat or animal products and make sure to have clean water as well. If you are somewhere and unsure of how pure the water is, bring it to a boil for a minute and then have it. Do not share razors, scissors, and needles. If you are around or living with someone who has Hepatitis B, make sure to stay away from their blood and bodily fluids.

2. Get vaccinated
Prevention is always better than cure. There are vaccinations available for both Hepatitis A and B, and ideally children above a year or older should get it.

3. Be informed
It is important to be educated about the different kinds of Hepatitis virus and how they all spread.

Hepatitis A and E are usually spread through contaminated food or water, as it is usually excreted through the faeces of an infected person. Hepatitis B, C and D are primarily spread through contact with infected blood. Sexual transmission is common in hepatitis B.

4. Take precautions while travelling
It is important to get vaccinated if you are travelling to places where Hepatitis virus is common, or there is a high chance of you contracting it. Some areas include Asia, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Mexico and Africa. Again, make sure to stay clean and sanitary, especially when it comes to food and water.

5. Practice safe sex
Unprotected sexual contact puts you at risk of contracting the Hepatitis virus, especially hepatitis B.

Using a condom and practicing safer sex can help minimize the risk. It is important to note that you may be at high risk if you have sex with an infected person, have multiple sexual partners, or are a man who has sex with men.

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