Viral Hepatitis A

 

Overview

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is transmitted by fecal-oral (stool to mouth) transmission when a person ingests food or drink after coming in contact with an infected person’s stool.  Unlike hepatitis B, C, and E, hepatitis A does not causes liver cancer or cirrhosis and is  rarely life-threatening, however some symptoms are debilitating.

Transmission

Fecal-oral transmission is the most common pathway for the hepatitis A virus. However, one can also contract the disease by being in contact with infected blood, for example through needle sharing. Casual contact does not transmit HAV.

Symptoms

Early signs of HAV can be mistaken for influenza and usually occur 2 – 6 weeks after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms are mild but usually last for several months. Adults show more signs and symptoms than children. Children under age 6 with HAV rarely show any signs of having the disease.

Some symptoms include:

  • Dark urine

  • Fatigue

  • Itching

  • Loss of appetite

  • Low-grade fever

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pale colored stools

  • Yellow skin (jaundice)

 

Hepatitis A Vaccine

The hepatitis A vaccine has two doses, given six to 18 months apart. The vaccine is recommended for:

  • Travelers to areas with high rates of hepatitis A

  • Men who have sex with men

  • Injection and non-injection drug users

  • Persons with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia

  • People with chronic liver disease

  • All children at age 1

 

Only one series of hepatitis A vaccine is needed in a person’s lifetime.

*Sources: WHO and CDC.

Viral Hepatitis B

 

Overview

Hepatitis B is the most serious disease of the liver.  Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.  There are an estimated 2 billion people who have been infected by viral hepatitis B, and more than 240 million people have chronic liver infections. Of these, more than 78 percent live in the Asia and Western Pacific Regions. Between 700,000 and 1 million people die each year due to hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing the virus.

Transmission

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted via contact with infectious body fluids, such as semen, saliva, and vaginal fluids, and is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. Activities that can lead to HBV transmission include:

  • Birth by an infected mother (perinatal transmission)

  • Sexual contact with an infected person

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other injection devices

  • Contact with open sores or blood of an infected person
     

HBV is NOT spread through casual contact such as sharing food and eating utensils, shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, breastfeeding, or hugging.

Symptoms

Symptoms include fever, dark urine, loss of appetite, joint pain, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, clay-colored bowel movements, nausea, and jaundice. However, those afflicted with chronic hepatitis B often have no symptoms and are unaware of being infected.

​Hepatitis B As A Global Issue 
Despite the magnitude of the problem, no regional or national campaign has been carried out to educate the public and those at risk about the prevention, transmission, and management of hepatitis B. International donors are not aware of the threat that HBV poses, and action by governments and decision makers to prevent and control the virus has been slow, particularly in providing access to newborn hepatitis B vaccinations. Providing timely birth doses continues to be a major hurdle, and few countries routinely screen pregnant women for hepatitis B. As a result, millions of newborns, children and young adults are unvaccinated, unprotected, and at risk. Discrimination against hepatitis B carriers is widespread in schools and the workplace.  A survey in 2007 indicated that 77 percent of multinational companies in China would not hire persons chronically infected with hepatitis B, and 70 percent of more than 10,000 people surveyed listed chronic hepatitis B and HIV as the major causes of employment discrimination in China.

The World’s First Anti-Cancer Vaccine

A safe, affordable and effective vaccine to prevent HBV has been available for 30 years. The vaccine consists of 3 shots over 6 months. The World Health Organization has proclaimed the HBV vaccine as “the world’s first anti-cancer vaccine”. 

The vaccine is recommended for:

  • All children at birth

  • A person that lives with or has sex with someone who has chronic hepatitis B

  • Men who have sex with men

  • Someone who has been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

  • People with multiple sex partners

  • Someone who uses needles to inject drugs

  • People whose jobs expose them to human blood
     

Please consult your doctor if you would like to get vaccinated.

*Sources: WHO and CDC.

Viral Hepatitis C

 

Background

As is the case with hepatitus B. hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer (both acute and chronic). It is the most common form of hepatitis in the United States with 3.2 million infected. 

Symptoms 

While hepatitis usually develops without any signs or symptoms, a simple blood test can still detect it. When symptoms do occur, it is a sign of advanced liver disease. 

Some symptoms for acute and chronic HCV can be:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dark urine

  • Grey-colored stools

  • Joint pain

  • Jaundice
     

Transmission

Hepatitis C is often spread through contact with an infected person’s blood. This is usually done by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs or by having unprotected sex with someone infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

Vaccine Research

Stay up to date on news of the development of HCV vaccines with HEPACIVAC, an alliance of partners from seven countries dedicated to eradicating hepatitis C. To learn more about them, please see their brochure.

Hepatitis C Guidelines

Additional information about Hepatitis C and recommendations for screening, care, and treatment of patients with Hepatitis C.
Publication April 2014; World Health Organization
View Guidelines for the Screening, Care and Treatment of Persons with Hepatitis C Infection

*Sources: WHO and CDC

Viral Hepatitis D

 

Background

Viral Hepatitis D is also known as “Delta Hepatitis”. It is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV), a different virus from those that cause hepatitis A, B, and C. HDV can be chronic or acute. It is an incomplete disease in that it requires HBV to function. Thus, HDV only occurs among people who already are infected with HBV. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of HDV are similar to those found in other viral hepatitis infections. They are:

  • Fatigue

  • Excessive tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • A low-grade fever

  • Muscle pain

  • Joint pain

  • Sore throat

  • Mild abdominal pain (or stomach pain)

  • Dark urine

  • Light-colored stool.
     

Again, signs may often be confused with the flu or cold. If you are worried or unsure of your symptoms, please contact your doctor right away.

 

Transmission

HDV is transmitted by touching any part of the mucous membranes (nostrils, mouth, lips, eyelids, ears, genital area, and anus) with infected blood.

There are currently no vaccines for HDV.

Prevention

HDV can be prevented by getting the HBV vaccination. Please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider.

 

*Sources: WHO and CDC

Viral Hepatitis E

 

Background

Viral hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) and can lead to acute liver infection. It does not lead to a chronic infection. 

Transmission

HEV is transmitted by ingesting fecal matter.

Symptoms

Symptoms for HEV are the same as for other viral hepatitis infections. They are:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Jaundice

  • Dark urine

  • Clay-colored stool

  • Joint pain
     

Vaccine

There are currently no vaccines for HEV.

Recovery

Most people recover quickly after coming into contact with the virus. However, for pregnant mothers, HEV infection is more serious and could be fatal.

*Sources: WHO and CDC