With World Hepatitis Day coming up on 28th July, we asked Dr Debs Basu, Clinical Lead here at Teladoc Health UK, for expert insight into the condition, it’s symptoms, and prevention methods.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
What Causes Hepatits?
The condition is usually caused by infectious viruses. Other causes include excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, autoimmune medical conditions, and non-alcoholic hepatitis.
There are five main types of hepatitis virus- A, B, C, D and E. They differ in their modes of transmission, severity of disease and prevention strategies.
Why do we worry about Hepatitis?
Some types of hepatitis will resolve with no worrying consequences. Other types become chronic and do not resolve. They can reduce the function of the liver and lead to scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and possibly liver cancer- significantly impacting on overall quality of life.
Why is Hepatitis Important?
Hepatitis B and C affect 354 million people globally and are the most common cause of hepatitis related deaths.
Globally more than one million people die each year from hepatitis. As a result, there is a huge global social, medical, and financial cost.
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus and is spread in the blood of an infected person.
Transmission can occur through unprotected sex, injecting drugs using contaminated needles or from mother to baby.
People infected as children tend to develop long-term (chronic) Hepatitis B and require medication to control the disease.
In the UK, all children are vaccinated against Hepatitis B as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule.
Vaccination is also recommended for high-risk groups which include men who have sex with men, drug users, healthcare professionals and people who travel to parts of the world where Hepatitis B rates are high.
Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. It is spread through direct contact with the blood of an infected person.
In the UK, the most common mode of transmission is through injecting drugs with infected needles. There is no vaccine currently for Hepatitis C, and anti-viral medication is used to treat chronic conditions.
This is a common form of hepatitis in the UK and is caused by drinking alcohol to excess usually over many years. People often do not realise they have symptoms until they suddenly become jaundiced (turn yellow).
Stopping excessive alcohol intake can allow the liver to heal but there is always a chance of liver cirrhosis and liver failure if the drinking re-starts.
In the UK men and women are recommended not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
What are the Symptoms?
Hepatitis may not have any symptoms in the initial stages. If symptoms do develop, they may include the following and require prompt medical review:
World Hepatitis Day
WHD takes place annually on the 28th July. It aims to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and to facilitate prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The theme for WHD 2023 is ‘We’re Not Waiting’ – urgent testing and treatment is needed now.
Find more information with the resources below: