Many people don’t know much about hepatitis, but approximately 5 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis B or C and about 75% of them don’t even know they’re infected. The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. There are toxins, drugs, alcohol, bacterial and viral infections that can cause hepatitis. It’s a disease that affects millions and unless you get tested, you’ll never know if you’re living with it.
How Do You Get It?
There are several types of hepatitis, but the more common types of viral hepatitis in the U.S. are A, B, and C. Hepatitis A could be transmitted through fecal contaminated food or water and anal/oral contact. Hepatitis B and C could be contracted through infected blood or bodily fluids. Hepatitis B is often sexually transmitted and is found in the blood, semen and vaginal fluids.
Typically 99% of the time Hepatitis A will clear up over the period of a couple of weeks to months on its own. Hepatitis B, C & D could be treated with prescription drugs and Hepatitis E could clear on its own in a couple of weeks to months. If left untreated, Hepatitis C can be life threatening.
Many times there are no symptoms, which is why it’s important to get tested for Hepatitis just like you would for an STD.
Common symptoms of hepatitis include:
• Loss of appetite
• Mild fever
• Nausea or vomiting
• Pain the stomach area
• Muscle or joint aches
• Jaundice or the yellowing of the skin and eyes, as well as dark urine
There is an immunization for children ages 1-18 can get for Hepatitis A; this consists of two or threes doses of the vaccine. The same goes for Hepatitis B, but in general, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent the spread of the disease, such as:
• Practice good hygiene and wash your hands after using the restroom and before handling food or eating.
• When traveling, avoid tap water in foreign countries where you know the quality of water is poor.
• Don’t share drug needles.
• As a rule of thumb, don’t use personal items, such as toothbrushes, nail clippers, razors, especially with an infected person.
• Get tested, there are millions of people living with the disease and they don’t know it.