Patient Guide

Hepatitis

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver which may lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer and failure.

The infections are caused by different viruses which spread by varying means.

Hepatitis B and C viruses cause chronic diseases whereas the hepatitis A and E viruses cause acute diseases. Hepatitis B is the most common infection of the liver. Hepatitis can also be caused by many other viruses (e.g Dengue virus), bacterial (e.g Typhcial bacteria) or parasitic (e.g Malaria parasite) and also by some medicines.

Symptoms

  • Jaundice
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Pale stools
  • Fever
  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
 Hepatitis AHepatitis BHepatitis C
TransmissionIngestion of faecal matter from:
  • Close person-to-person contact with an infected person
  • Ingestion of contaminated food or drinks
Contact with infectious blood, semen, and other body fluids through:
  • Birth to an infected mother
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Sharing of contaminated needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment
  • Sharp instrument injuries
Treatment
  • No specific medication
  • Many recover after two weeks with medications to relieve symptoms and bed rest
The treatment of Hepatitis B carriers include:
  • Diagnosis and evaluation – Blood tests, ultrasonography of the liver and liver biopsy are used to assess the severity of the illness
  • Supportive therapy – Drugs that boost the immune system to eliminate the hepatitis B virus (e.g. alpha- interferon) or suppress viral replication
  • Surveillance for liver cancer – The risk is greater amongst Hepatitis B carriers as compared to non-carriers. The patient is subjected to blood tests. Elevated alpha-fetoprotein level is a tumour marker for liver cancer
  • Alpha-Interferon is the current recommended regime for treatment. It is believed to act by preventing viral replication and boosting the body’s
Prevention Hepatitis A is best prevented by vaccination especially if one is travelling to developing countries or have chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B is best prevented by vaccination especially if one is a carrier, immune deficient or requires repeated transfusion of blood due to an illness A vaccine capable of protecting against hepatitis C, is not available
Ways of prevention include:
  • Practising good hygiene
  • Washing hands with soap before and after meals
  • Properly cooking shellfish before consumption
  • Good food handling practices
Ways of prevention include:
  • Avoiding multiple sex partners
  • Having protected sex
  • Avoiding the sharing of needles, sharp instruments, toothbrushes with those who are unsure of their Hepatitis status
  • Avoiding blood, tissue, organs or semen donation if one is a Hepatitis carrier
  • Going to reliable operators for acupuncture, body piercing or tattooing

Download PDF here.

References:

  1. Hepatitis A [Accessed 21 Sep. 2015]
  2. Hepatitis B [Accessed 21 Sep. 2015]

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