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THE ABCS OF HEPATITIS

 

Hepatitis is a serious virus that is passed from person to person. It infects the liver and can cause permanent damage to that organ. There are three specific types of hepatitis and they are known as hepatitis A, B and C.

The symptoms of all three are similar and can vary in degree of severity and duration. Symptoms include poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the stomach, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, light colored feces, dark yellow urine, and dry itchy skin.

Hepatitis A is passed from person to person through contact with human feces. It is also possible to contact the virus by casual human contact through the hands or by consuming contaminated food or drink. It is often present in wastewater and can contaminate public beaches during periods after a storm where there is excess runoff. Hepatitis A is not as commonly seen in the United States as it used to be before the spread of public water and sewage systems. In rural areas or in undeveloped countries where water can be easily contaminated it is still a health problem.


Today Hepatitis A is usually related to poor hygiene relating to lack of hand washing. Food Handlers are of particular concern since they can pass the virus on to so many people and the virus’ symptoms can be so mild that the infected person does not even know they have the contagious virus. Hepatitis A can also be passed during sexual intercourse so it is often classified as a sexually transmitted disease. Hepatitis A can be prevented by practicing better hand washing habits and avoiding contact with contaminated water.

Hepatitis B is passed through contact with human body fluids. It is considered a STD because it is most commonly transmitted between sexual partners through contact with blood. It can also be transmitted through other contact with contaminated human blood as with tattoo needles, illegal drug needles, and blood transfusions. It is also possible for a mother to pass Hepatitis to her infant during delivery where blood is present.

Hepatitis C is similar to Hepatitis B in that it is passed through the exchange of body fluids. It is a more sever form of the virus in that it often becomes a chronic disease and can develop into more life threatening diseases like cirrhosis of the liver, or liver cancer.



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