Tag Archives: Hepatitis E

A, B, C, D, E of Hepatitis

Did you know that sharing needles, having unprotected sex, and drinking large amounts of alcohol can put you at a higher risk of contracting the Hepatitis virus? On World Hepatitis Day, Dr Rakesh Patel suggests a few hygiene practices to protect oneself from the illness.

Life depends on the liver.

New Delhi, July 28, 2021: Globally, around 325 million people live with Hepatitis infection. Hepatitis is referred an inflammation of the liver that can cause complications. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. The common cause of Hepatitis is a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of Hepatitis as well. These include Autoimmune Hepatitis and Hepatitis, which occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune Hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue. Common forms of Viral Hepatitis include:

Hepatitis A: This form of Hepatitis does not lead to chronic infection and usually has no complications. The liver usually heals from Hepatitis A within several months. However, occasional deaths from Hepatitis A have occurred due to liver failure, and some people have required a liver transplant for Acute Hepatitis A infection. Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis B: It is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, containing the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). Injection drug use, having sex with an infected partner or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting Hepatitis B. The earlier in life Hepatitis B is contracted, the more likely it is to become chronic. People can carry the virus without feeling sick but can still spread the virus. Hepatitis B can be prevented by getting a vaccine.

Hepatitis C: About 75% to 85% of patients with Hepatitis C develop a chronic liver infection. It often does not show any symptoms. No vaccine is yet available to prevent Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D only happens to people who are infected by the Hepatitis B virus. If you are vaccinated against Hepatitis B, you will be protected against the Hepatitis D virus.

Hepatitis E: This type of Hepatitis is spread by ingesting contaminated food or water. Hepatitis E is common throughout the world. Even though vaccines exist, they are not available everywhere.

Most people recover from Hepatitis, and the disease is often preventable. However, it is still considered a serious health risk because it can:

  • Destroy the liver tissue
  • Spread easily from person to person
  • Weaken the body’s immune system
  • Cause the liver to fail
  • Cause liver cancer
  • Cause death (in rare cases)

TIPS TO PREVENT HEPATITIS: Hepatitis is a preventable disease, and the following precautions can keep you safe. Practising good hygiene is one key way to avoid contracting Hepatitis A and E. If you’re traveling, you should avoid:

  • Local water
  • Ice
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish and oysters
  • Raw fruit and vegetables

Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by:

  • Not sharing drug needles
  • Not sharing razors
  • Not using someone else’s toothbrush
  • Not touching spilt blood          

Hepatitis B and C can also be contracted through sexual intercourse and intimate sexual contact. Practising safe sex by using condoms and dental dams can help decrease the risk of infection. Vaccination is another effective way to stay protected against Hepatitis A and B. Experts are currently developing vaccines against Hepatitis C. Above all, prevention, hygiene practices, and vaccination are the most effective tool against Hepatitis. Speak to your doctor today to know more.

Currently, we are facing an epidemic of another form of Hepatitis which is Fatty Liver Disease. This is because of sedentary life, changing eating habits and obesity. Also, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension are risk factors associated with it. It is diagnosed by sonography and Liver Function Test. If it’s not corrected, it will lead to the development of Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer. So a healthy traditional diet, weight control, exercise, and regular check will help prevent this disease which affects 25% of the population.

(Dr Rakesh Patel is Consultant, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan)

Safe water means good health. Do you know why?

On World Water Day, Dr Sonali Gautam explains poor water hygiene’s impact on one’s health, especially children.  

New Delhi, March 22, 2021: On World Water Day, while we all should aim to save the most precious gift and a vital life source, we must also focus on improving water supplies and hygiene. You must be wondering why, so let me explain the impact of poor water hygiene on health. Worldwide, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water, and 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation. Unsafe hygiene practices are widespread, compounding the effects on people’s health. The impact on child mortality rates is devastating, with more than 2,97,000 children under five die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water.

In India, the problem of unsafe water is a substantial public health concern. Apart from illnesses such as diarrohea, jaundice, etc., unsafe water also contributes to Hepatitis A & E. Both these diseases are associated with inadequate and unsafe water supplies, poor sanitation & hygiene, leading to infection and inflammation of the liver.

What is Hepatitis A and E? Hepatitis A and E viruses are RNA virus, which primarily infects the liver, causing inflammation of the liver (Acute Hepatitis). Infection with Hepatitis A & E is usually self-limiting.

How is the infection acquired? Hepatitis A or E is spread primarily through food or water contaminated by faeces from an infected person (feco-oral route). It enters the liver from our gut and is then excreted again by our gut into the stool, thus completing the infection cycle.

Who are at risk for Hepatitis A or E? Not everyone who’s infected will have any evidence of this disease, as it may go unnoticed (asymptomatic disease). But still, these people can excrete viruses in their stool and continue to infect others (carriers).

Asymptomatic disease: India being a developing nation with poor sanitation conditions, more than 95% of children below five years of age are usually infected with these viruses, with an asymptomatic course. Thus, in India, antibody to Hepatitis A virus is nearly universally detectable by adolescence, and antibody to HEV increases during young adulthood to reach about 40% in adults.

How does it spread? Hepatitis A is usually spread person-to-person through food or water contamination. An infected person’s hands can become the source of infection after using the bathroom. The virus then spreads by direct contact or by food, beverages or other objects that the infected person handled. An infected individual can transmit the virus to others as early as two weeks before the symptoms begin to appear.

Symptomatic disease: International travellers to India, children from high-income families are at risk of developing Hepatitis A or E infection because they do not eat much from the streets and have not developed the required antibodies resulting in fever, stomach-ache and jaundice.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A or E?

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach upset
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Diarrhoea
  • Yellowish eye & skin called jaundice

Why is it dangerous? Unlike Hepatitis B & C, Hepatitis A does not cause Chronic Liver Disease and is rarely fatal. But it can cause debilitating symptoms and Fulminant Hepatitis (Acute Liver Failure), which is often fatal. Fulminant Hepatic Failure leading to death is seen in 1.8 % adults, and 10% in pregnant ladies.

Most people with Hepatitis E get better within a few months. Usually, it doesn’t lead to long-term illness, or Liver damage like other forms of Hepatitis do. But Hepatitis E can be dangerous for pregnant women or anyone with weak immune systems, including the elderly or ill.

How to prevent it? The best approach is to take all precautions to avoid Hepatitis and ensure safe drinking water for all. Make sure that your water source is clean and well maintained. Apart from this, follow this:

  • Hand sanitation: Frequent handwashes before meals and after using the washroom.
  • Avoid eating outside, especially if you are pregnant.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine: Vaccinate your children below six years (consult a paediatrician about this).

If you identify any of the above symptoms, kindly meet your Gastroenterologist for timely treatment and care to resolve the infection with expected full recovery.

(Dr Sonali Gautam, Consultant-Gastroenterology, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, a Fortis network hospital; Image from Pixabay)