How can you protect yourself from Hepatitis? Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is usually caused by:
- Viral Infection
There are five types of viral hepatitis such as A, B, C, D, and E. Types A, B, and C are the most common (read more about types of Hepatitis).
Symptoms of hepatitis
Most people with hepatitis experience either mild or no symptoms, and many people don’t even realize that they are infected. Symptoms may not occur until the damage affects liver function. This applies to all forms of hepatitis.
The early phase of hepatitis is called the acute phase. The symptoms if they occur, may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Mild Fever
- Muscle or joint aches
- Slight abdominal pain
- Weight loss
The acute phase is usually not dangerous, and most healthy adults that are infected are able to get rid of the virus with treatment. People unable to eliminate the hepatitis virus from their body following an acute infection, and who remain infected for more than 6 months are said to have a chronic hepatitis infection. This is most likely to happen with hepatitis B and C.
Chronic hepatitis can lead to progressive liver failure, resulting in:
- Confusion and drowsiness
- Blooding stools
Many chronically infected people have no symptoms, and may not even know they have hepatitis until liver failure occurs. People with a chronic infection have an increased risk of developing cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver cancer later in life.
Ways in which you can protect yourself from Hepatitis:
Preventing hepatitis A and E
The most effective ways to decrease hepatitis A and E transmission are improved sanitation, food safety and basic hygiene practices. The following steps can help reduce the risk of hepatitis A and E transmission and infection, especially when traveling:
- The hepatitis A vaccine is the most effective way to prevent infection, especially when travelling to places where hepatitis may be endemic. There is currently no readily available vaccine for hepatitis E.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the washroom and before handling food.
- Drink only bottled, boiled or chemically treated water.
- Don’t drink beverages of unknown purity, with or without ice.
- Consume only cooked food. Avoid unpeeled fruits and raw vegetables.
Preventing hepatitis B, C and D
The following steps can help prevent transmission and infection:
- The hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent infection. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C. There is also no vaccine for hepatitis D. Since hepatitis D cannot survive without hepatitis B, getting vaccinated against hepatitis B will protect you from both strains.
- Practice safe sex using condoms.
- Do not share personal items like toothbrushes or razors.
- Only allow the use of well-sterilized equipment during tattooing or piercing.
- Do not share needles if you inject drugs.
- Cover cuts and scratches with proper dressings.
- Hygienically dispose of blood-stained items such as bandages and sanitary napkins.
- Wear latex or plastic gloves while performing first aid.
- Pregnant women should seek early and regular prenatal care.
- Consume alcohol with moderation, as it speeds the progression of liver disease.