ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEPATITIS


Hepatitis attacks the liver, which is a very important organ in the body, so prevention is better than cure. Here’s what you need to know.


Our livers break down and filter toxins (poisons and harmful substances), as well as help the body to digest food and store energy. We only have one liver, so if it isn’t working properly it can severely affect our health.

WHAT IS HEPATITIS?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, usually caused by a virus, and it prevents the liver from functioning properly. Hepatitis sometimes gets better on its own, but some types become chronic (lifelong) and can cause serious liver disease.



SYMPTOMS
This disease, unfortunately, doesn’t always have very clear symptoms, so many people are unaware that they are carrying the virus. Often acute-stage (early) symptoms are very similar to those of flu:
• Tiredness, weakness
• No appetite
• Fever
• Nausea, vomiting.

Additional symptoms include:
• Stomach pain
• Dark urine
• Pale, loose stools
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes).

MAIN TYPES OF HEPATITIS
The three main types of hepatitis are named for the viruses that cause them: Hepatitis A, B and C. Hepatitis D and E are less common and scientists are working on identifying more types.

Hepatitis A virus is transmitted by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by faeces (stools) of an infected person and it has an incubation period of approximately 28 days. Hepatitis A can spread among young children in daycare because many are in nappies and cannot wash their own hands. These children are usually asymptomatic, and so prevention is difficult. Hepatitis A is diagnosed through a blood test. Treatment for this is simply rest, as there are no medicines to treat it. Fortunately, hepatitis A does not become chronic.

Hepatitis B virus is transmitted by contact with wounds or body fluids, eg blood or semen. It can also be spread by sharing razors, needles, or even toothbrushes if they have microscopic particles of blood on them (it doesn’t mean there’s no blood if you can’t see it!). It can be passed from mother to child at birth, and between children at a young age. Hepatitis B can become chronic and 15-25% of infected patients may develop cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. The younger the child at the time of infection, the greater the chance of serious liver disease. Vaccination is the best protection.


Hepatitis C virus is also transmitted by direct contact with infected body fluids. This form of the virus is common among drug users who inject drugs. It can become chronic and cause serious disease. In the past, the only treatment option available was weekly injections of interferon, combined with daily oral ribavirin, for up to one year and cure rates were only around 50%. However, finally, new direct-acting antiviral drugs provide a safer, more effective, orally administered cure over a shorter time period. As many as 96% of Hep C infections in South Africa can be cured by this therapy.



VACCINATION AND FOREIGN TRAVEL

  • Babies in South Africa get immunised against Hepatitis B at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age. It’s important not to miss a vaccination, so check Road-to-Health cards to protect your child.
  • If you’re travelling in Africa, South-east Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean or the Amazon river basin, vaccination against hepatitis A and B viruses is recommended.
  • You can get hepatitis from swimming in polluted water – even the ocean – if you accidentally swallow infected water. It doesn’t have to look murky to carry infection.
  • Always wash fruit and vegetables well – even at home – and boil water if you’re travelling. 

Jet Club members have free access to Jet Club’s helplines.
Personal Health Advisor
0800 00 45 45
(SA & Namibia)
From Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland, dial +2711 991 8258



ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEPATITIS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEPATITIS Reviewed by Jet Club on July 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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