Patient Information Leaflet

Viral Hepatitis

Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is the most common cause of hepatitis. It is inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis virus named A, B, C, D and E. All these viruses present clinically in a very similar fashion, especially in the acute phase of illness

Hepatitis A and E are transmitted by the faeco-oral route, therefore the prevalence is high in developing countries where hygiene is poor and waterborne and foodborne epidemics are common. Both hepatitis A and E viruses are not associated with chronic infection. Hepatitis A is usually self limiting. But Hepatitis E can induce a fulminating hepatitis with mortality 0.5-4%, particularly in pregnant women where the mortality may reach about 80 %

The Hepatitis B, C and D viruses are transmitted via infected blood and blood products. These can cause chronic hepatitis, in which the infection is prolonged, sometimes life-long . Although the modes of transmission are the same , the difference lies in the chance of acquiring the infection through sexual transmission and vertical transmission(infected mother to child), which are high in case of hepatitis B as compared to hepatitis C. A specific diagnosis about the type of hepatitis infection can only be made in the laborator with the help of simple blood tests.

In Hepatitis B, 90-95 % adults clear the virus from their body within 6 months, 5-10 % go on to develop chronic hepatitis B. Young children of upto 5 years of age have a 50 % chance to clear the virus in the acute stage, while 90% of babies cannot clear the virus if they get it from their infected mothers at the time of the birth. Patients who are unable to clear the virus in 6 months progress into the chronic stage of hepatitis B, which slowly damages the liver over many years.This is why many patients with HBV are asymptomatic

Hepatitis C, in 15% of cases the infection is acute, meaning the virus is cleared by the body in less than 6 months. Unfortunately, in 85% of cases, the infection becomes chronic and damage the liver silently over the years.

Complications: Chronic hepatitis B and C infection can cause cirrhosis(or scarring ) of the liver, end-stage liver disease and some types of liver cancer

Treatment is available for chronic Hepatitis B and C infection depending on the stage of the disease. Hepatitis A and E are usually self limiting and require symptom relief

Vaccination: There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B. Infants should get the first shot within 12 hours after birth, second shot at age 1 to 2 months and third shot between 6 and 18 months. Older children and adults can also get the vaccine, three shots are given over 6 months. You need all the shots to be protected. Unfortunately there is NO VACCINE for hepatitc C

Interesting facts about hepatitis B and C
It is important to know that Hepatitis B,C and D are not spread by sneezing, coughing, food or water ,sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils, handshakes, hugging or kissing on the cheek, playing with children

Tips for your Safety

  • Wash hands before injecting, do not share needles
  • Cover any open cuts or wounds
  • Use of barriers and condoms will help reduce risk of sexual transmission
  • During pregnancy it is important to test for hepatitis B and C infection due to risk of transmission of infection from mother to baby(more with Hepatitis B compared to C)
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers or pierced earrings.
  • Make sure tattoo and piercing equipment package is opened up in front of you

Who is at risk?

Although anyone can get hepatitis B and C, some people are at greater risk such as

  • Have received blood transfusion
  • Hemodialysis
  • Blood exposure at work(health care professionals)
  • Infants born to infected mothers
  • Living with a person who has chronic hepatitis B
  • Inject drugs or share needles,syringes
  • Homosexual, multiple sexual partners, have STD