Did you know that millions of Americans are currently living with viral hepatitis? Despite these high numbers, there are still many misunderstandings about what hepatitis is and who’s at risk.
That’s why almost half the people living with the virus don’t know that they have it. Part of the reason for this is the many different forms and causes of the virus.
It can make it confusing to determine what form hepatitis takes and the individuals who are at risk. This is especially true if you haven’t had proper bloodborne pathogens training.
Luckily, we’ve made this crash course guide to help you learn. In it, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the virus, from symptoms to treatment options to prevention tips. Let’s get started!
What Is Hepatitis?
The term hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is a swelling in the tissues that occurs in reaction to irritation or injuries. If left untreated, then this type of liver disease can cause liver failure.
Over 4.5 million people die from liver diseases that are worsened by hepatitis every year. In some cases, hepatitis can be caused by alcoholism, medical conditions, and certain medications.
However, most cases are caused by a specific strain of the virus. These types of viruses can be either acute or chronic. Acute means that the virus lasts for less than six months.
Chronic means that the virus lasts for more than six months. There are technically five different types of hepatitis viruses identified with an alphabet letter ranging from A to E.
However, Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most popular types. As such, we’ll dive into each one specifically to learn more about it and how it spreads.
Hepatitis A is one of the few strains of the virus that doesn’t lead to a chronic condition. Most of the time, there are no complications associated with the condition.
People usually get over it on their own within a few months. However, there have been deaths associated with the condition when it causes liver failure. The most common way that hepatitis A is spread is through oral or fecal transmission.
As such, sexual contact, person-to-person contact, and contaminated food/drinking water are usually how it’s spread. It’s possible to catch hepatitis A through blood transfusion; however, this is extremely rare.
Hepatitis can lead to a life-long chronic condition, but it doesn’t reach this stage for the vast majority of people. However, the earlier in life that the condition is caught, the more likely it is to become chronic.
Like COVID-19, people can carry and transmit the virus even when they don’t exhibit any symptoms. Hepatitis B is concentrated most highly in the blood. However, it can also be found in semen and other bodily fluids.
As such, the most common methods of transmission are through sharing needles with an infected person, unprotected sex, and through birth if the mother is infected.
You can also catch it if you share personal objects with an infected person, like toothbrushes and razors. However, this way is less common since it needs to contact open sores from the other person.
Hepatitis C is by far the most common form of the virus. Roughly three million people in the United States have this form of hepatitis.
Sadly, this is because there’s currency no vaccine to protect against the virus. Hepatitis C is transmitted through infected blood. As such, it’s commonly spread through drug addicts using infected needles.
It can also be spread through birth if the mother’s infected, sexual activity with an infected person, unregulated tattooing, and other sharp medical instruments.
However, these ways are less common since it’s not an efficient way to transmit the disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
Now we know three of the popular strains of viral hepatitis and how they’re transmitted. But, how can you tell if you have it? Here are some of the symptoms that usually indicate some form of hepatitis has occurred:
- Dark urine when you pee
- Jaundice, or yellow skin and white eyes
- Stool that is pale or clay-colored
- Joints that ache
- Constant feelings of fatigue
- Feelings of nausea
- Lack of appetite
- Consistent low-grade fever
- Stomach pain when you eat or drink
Most people will have two or more of these symptoms if they have hepatitis. However, you should still get checked out if you find one.
Get in touch with your healthcare provider, and they’ll assist you with diagnosis and treatment options.
Can Hepatitis Be Diagnosed and Treated?
Hepatitis is easily diagnosed. Simply go into a doctor’s visit with your primary care physician. Describe your system to the doctor, and they’ll give you a physical exam.
From there, they will perform a blood test which will tell them what type of hepatitis virus you have, as well as the severity. So, if you have hepatitis, then can it be treated?
Unfortunately, hepatitis A cannot be treated in terms of a cure. All that doctors can do is carefully monitor your liver condition. However, if hepatitis A is caught early enough, doctors might eradicate it with a vaccine.
The good news is that there are potential treatment options for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, even if they’re in their chronic stages.
Discuss your options with your doctor, and they’ll give you a prescription for a drug that can potentially help cure it.
Who’s At Risk of Catching Viral Hepatitis?
There are a variety of people who have a higher risk of spreading hepatitis and catching it. The first group is alcoholics. While the virus doesn’t spread through alcohol, drinking too much can cause severe inflammation in the liver.
The next group is people who take drugs that use needles. Since many of these individuals share their needles this is a common route for the virus to spread.
After that are people who have multiple sexual partners or have unprotected anal/oral sex; next are people who travel to countries or areas with poor sanitation. In addition, the people who live there can be at risk since poor nutrition is often a cause of liver inflammation.
Many people who work around infected blood are also potentially at risk of catching hepatitis. This makes it incredibly dangerous for people like healthcare workers and dental office employees.
The last group of at-risk individuals is people who receive long-term kidney dialysis. Since these individuals require frequent injections, they are prone to transmitting some form of the virus.
How Do You Avoid the Risk of Hepatitis?
There are many different ways that you can prevent the spread of hepatitis-causing viruses. If you are around blood a lot in your profession, or you’re traveling to a country with poor sanitation, then you should get a vaccine.
They currently have vaccinations that can prevent both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. If you are sexually active, then you should wear a condom. This is the best way of preventing the virus from spreading through sexual interaction.
If you do decide to take drugs, then you must never share needles. In addition to this, you should be careful when getting tattoos or piercings. Make sure that the artists sanitizes all of their equipment before proceeding.
If you’re in a situation exposed to viral hepatitis, then make sure to always wash your hands and practice good hygiene. Also, only drink water from an unopened water bottle when you’re in these environments.
The last way is through education. The more people know about how hepatitis viruses are transmitted, the easier it will be to prevent it from happening. This is especially important for people that work in the healthcare industry.
Without the proper training, these individuals can inadvertently transmit the virus to either themselves or others. Luckily, healthcare industries can provide these individuals with bloodborne pathogens certification.
This will teach them everything they need to know about how pathogens are spread through the blood and reduce hepatitis risk.
Need Bloodborne Pathogens Training to Protect Against Hepatitis? Contact HIPAA Exams
We hope this article helped you learn more about hepatitis and how to avoid the risk of catching it.
As we mentioned before, the best way to prevent hepatitis is through proper bloodborne pathogens training — especially for people who are exposed through their work.
Also Read: Strengthen The Immune System