Viral Hepatitis
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Thursday, 25 February 2010 16:29

Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A virus is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A.  This type of transmission is called "fecal-oral." Fewer than 5 percent of infections are transmitted through fecal-oral contact during sexual intercourse. Two products are used to prevent hepatitis A virus infection: immune globulin and hepatitis A vaccine.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. HBV is spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. For example, HBV is spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom (the efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HBV is unknown, but their proper use might reduce transmission), by sharing drugs, needles, or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needle sticks or sharps exposures on the job, or from an infected mother to her baby during birth. Of approximately 200,000 new HBV infections in the United States each year, approximately half are transmitted through sexual intercourse. Preliminary data from a large U.S. multisite study indicate that approximately one third of persons with acute hepatitis B virus infections in 1995 had a history of another STD.



Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is spread primarily by direct contact with human blood, including sharing of needles for injection drug use and sex with someone with HCV. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C .

Hepatitis D (delta) is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV), a defective virus that needs the hepatitis B virus to exist. Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is found in the blood of persons infected with the virus. Infection occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not immune. Hepatitis B vaccine should be given to prevent HBV/HDV co-infection.

Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) transmitted in much the same way as hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis E, however, does not occur often in the United States. HEV is found in the stool (feces) of persons and animals with hepatitis E and spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

At present, there are no specific treatments for the acute symptoms of viral hepatitis. Doctors recommend bed rest, a healthy diet, and avoidance of alcoholic beverages. A genetically engineered form of a naturally occurring protein, interferon alpha, is used to treat people with chronic hepatitis C. Studies supported by the National Institutes of Health led to the approval of interferon alpha for the treatment of those with chronic HBV as well.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 March 2010 05:38
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