Hepatitis is a liver inflammation caused by a variety of infectious viruses and non-infectious agents, which can result in a variety of health problems, some of which are fatal. The hepatitis virus has five main strains known as types A, B, C, D, and E. While they all cause liver disease, they differ significantly in a number of ways, including modes of transmission, the severity of the illness, geographical distribution, and prevention methods. Types B and C, in particular, cause chronic disease and are the leading cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and viral hepatitis-related deaths.
Globally, WHO estimated 58 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection and 296 million people with chronic hepatitis B infection, with about 1.5 million new infections occurring per year for both diseases. Approximately 290 000 people died from hepatitis C and 820 000 from hepatitis B, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
Hepatitis A is a food-borne illness that can be transmitted via contaminated water and unwashed food. It is the most easily transmitted, especially in children, but it is also the least likely to harm the liver. Hepatitis A is usually mild and can be healed completely within six months.
Hepatitis B can be passed from mother to child via contaminated blood, needles, syringes, or bodily fluids. Chronic Hepatitis B can cause long-term liver damage, liver cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver.
Hepatitis C can only be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth or through infected blood. The likelihood of liver cancer and cirrhosis is high in the long run.
Hepatitis D is only detected in people who have already been infected with hepatitis B; however, co-infection with HBV and HDV can result in a more serious illness and poorer health consequences, including a faster progression to cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis D is quite rare.
Hepatitis E is most commonly found in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Please do remember: When used in excess or at very high doses, several ordinarily harmless drugs can be harmful to the liver and cause hepatitis (drug-induced hepatitis). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and even vitamin A are some examples.
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WHO. (2020, March 11). Hepatitis. https://www.who.int/health-topics/hepatitis
John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Hepatitis. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hepatitis