Hepatits: Information, Symptoms and Treatment

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Hepatitis means liver inflammation. Viral hepatitis means that a person
has liver inflammation due to a virus. Viral infection of the liver
makes the liver swell up and stop working well. The liver is an
important organ. It helps your body with these functions:

– Digests food

– Stores energy

– Removes poisons

Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis C
virus, or HCV.Between 15 to 40 percent of people who get hepatitis C are
able to fight off the virus during the early, or acute, stage, usually
within six months. Between 60 and 85 percent of patients cannot get rid
of the virus and develop a long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C infection.
People with chronic hepatitis C will have the disease all their lives
unless they are successfully treated with antiviral medicines.

The symptoms of acute hepatitis B infection develop within 1-6 months of
when you first become infected with the virus, and include feeling
sick, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and feeling generally unwell. Some
people develop jaundice (Peelia). This is due to build-up of bilirubin,
which is made in the liver and spills into the blood in some liver
conditions. Your urine also becomes dark yellow, your stools may go
pale, and you tend to itch.

The hepatitis B virus can be passed to an infant during childbirth or shortly thereafter if the mother is infected. 

 The risk of becoming chronically infected depends on your age at the
time of infection. Most newborns and about 50% of children infected with
hepatitis B develop chronic hepatitis. Only a few adults infected with
HBV develop the chronic condition.Most of the damage from the hepatitis B
virus is due to the body’s response to the infection. When the body’s
immune system detects the infection, it sends out special cells to fight
it off. However, these disease-fighting cells can lead to liver
inflammation.

Hepatitis D can only be acquired if the person has an active infection
of hepatitis B. The virus cannot reproduce without the presence of the
virus causing hepatitis B. If you have chronic hepatitis B and your
symptoms suddenly worsen, your doctor should check for hepatitis D. The
virus is spread through contact with infected blood and contaminated
needles. You can also get the disease through sexual contact with
someone who is infected.

The good news is that there is a safe and effective vaccine against the
virus. In New Zealand this is on the immunisation schedule for infants
and children up to sixteen years, free of charge through general
practitioners. The course of vaccine for an infant consists of three
doses scheduled for six weeks, three months and five months of age.
Mothers who are carriers are identified by a blood test in pregnancy and
their babies are offered protection by an injection of immune globulin
at birth followed by a course of vaccine.

Immunisation at any age (from babies to old age) is very effective at
protecting people against infection. If it is known (by a blood test)
that a pregnant woman is a chronic carrier of hepatitis B, a baby can be
immunised (given a vaccine) at birth to protect it from hepatitis B
infection. The vaccine does not contain live virus, but uses a protein
(called surface antigen) from the virus, so you cannot catch hepatitis
from the vaccine.by