Blood, stool most common ways hepatitis viruses spread among humans; all you need to know
On World Hepatitis Day, observed every year on 28 July, let’s discuss the five main types of hepatitis viruses and the risk factors associated with each of them
According to WHO, Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The most common type of hepatitis is viral hepatitis and it can be caused by five viruses which are: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E virus. Each virus is dangerous. However, some are more dangerous than others.
All of them spread in different ways and have different risk factors associated with them. On World Hepatitis Day, observed every year on 28 July, let’s discuss the five main types of hepatitis viruses or diseases and the risk factors associated with each of them:
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a liver disease which is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is spread when a healthy person consumes food or water that is contaminated with the stool of an infected person. The high-risk activities associated with it are improper sanitation, poor personal hygiene and unprotected oral or anal sex.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This infection can be acute or chronic. Hepatitis B is very contagious and it spreads through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids, but it is not spread through saliva, so kissing or sharing utensils is safe. The high-risk activities associated with hepatitis B infection are unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, being pricked with a contaminated needle or transmission from mother to baby during the time of birth.
Hepatitis C: This is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The only way hepatitis C can spread is if a healthy individual is exposed to the blood of an infected person. High-risk activities associated with Hepatitis C include the sharing of needles and tattoo or piercing tools, use of medical equipment that was previously used on an infected person and was not sterilized well, unprotected sex, and transmission during pregnancy and childbirth.
Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D is a liver disease that occurs in both acute and chronic forms. It is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). However, hepatitis D infection cannot occur without hepatitis B, as it needs HBV for its replication. The presence of both these infections together is considered the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis. Its rapid progression could result in death. The only way to prevent this infection is to take a vaccine against hepatitis B.
Hepatitis D is transmitted the same way as hepatitis B, which is through contact with an infected person’s blood. People with hepatitis B infection and those who are not immune to HBV are at risk of getting Hepatitis D.
Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is a disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It has four different types which are genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first two genotypes are only found in humans whereas the other two are found in animals as well. This virus is shed in the stool of an infected person and may enter another human body through contaminated water. Most times, hepatitis E infection gets better by itself and the person is fine in two to six weeks. In rare cases, however, a person may develop acute liver failure and it may eventually lead to the death of the patient. A liver transplant may be a life-saving procedure in such situations.
Apart from the mentioned risk factors, other risk factors for a hepatitis infection include consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, repeated exposure to toxic chemicals and use of certain over-the-counter medication.
This article was written by Dr Vivek Vij, director, Liver Transplant, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla Road.
For more information, read our article on Hepatitis.
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