The ABCs of Hepatitis: Is There a Protection?

Hepatitis is the general name for acute and chronic liver inflammation of various origins. When hepatitis is detected, the letter added to the disease name can significantly affect your life.

Dr. Alice

Gastroenterologist, endoscopist

Hepatitis A (Botkin's disease or "jaundice")

The source of infection is a sick person. It is most infectious at the end of the incubation period and during the pre-icteric stage. With the onset of jaundice, the risk of infection is minimized. The main routes of infection include food, household contact, and water. The virus is transmitted through many things including dirty hands and dishes. It is also very stable.

It can be stored for several months at a temperature of plus 39.2°F and for several years at minus 4°F. It dies only after a five-minute boil. The vast majority of cases are children 2–15 years old, with the disease often spreading in kindergartens, schools, and summer camps. If a person has not had hepatitis A before the age of 30, then he or she most likely will not get sick from it.

Hepatitis A does not cause permanent damage to the liver; the immune system produces antibodies for lifelong immunity, so it is highly unlikely you get sick a second time.

Vaccination Children can be vaccinated starting at age one. There are no age restrictions for adults. The standard hepatitis A vaccination includes two vaccinations 6–18 months apart.

Hepatitis B

This is an autoimmune disease: the body produces antibodies and attacks healthy cells. It is extremely dangerous and capable of affecting all internal organs, vessels, and joints in a short time. The virus is present in all physiological fluids of a sick person, and its infectiousness is much higher than HIV. The virus is transmitted sexually and through the blood.

With unprotected intercourse, infection is inevitable. There is a high risk of infection in beauty studios, manicure salons, and tattoo parlors. There is also a risk of catching hepatitis B in a dentist's office.

Illness can be transmitted even through intense kissing. If a pregnant woman has hepatitis B, it is very likely that the disease will be passed on to the child during childbirth. If a family member gets sick, he or she can transmit the virus through combs with sharp teeth, bath towels, scissors.

The main danger of hepatitis B is that it is resistant to high and low temperatures and can remain for a very long time on underwear and other items where the infected person's blood has gotten. The virus can be destroyed only by treating the surface with formalin, chloramine, or hydrogen peroxide.

This is the type of hepatitis that is considered chronic. Treatment is carried out during the acute phase. When the virus becomes chronic, there may be no symptoms of the disease at all, but the liver is gradually destroyed. The sooner the disease is diagnosed, the higher of a chance it will be cured. If the disease has started, then the probability of cure is very low.

Vaccination Infants are vaccinated immediately after birth, and then it is repeated again at 3 and 6 months. The fourth dose of the vaccine is given a year later. Schoolchildren are vaccinated against hepatitis B at the age of 13.

In adults, the effect of the vaccine lasts 7–10 years. After that time period, you need to check your protection against this insidious virus. Donate blood for the presence of post-vaccination antibodies, and if their titer is low—that is, there are few antibodies—revaccination is necessary.

Hepatitis C

This type of hepatitis begins imperceptibly, proceeds without clear signs, and leads to serious consequences, which is why it is called the "affectionate killer." The source of infection is a sick person or a virus carrier. The virus is transmitted through blood. The risk of contracting hepatitis C sexually is not very high, and household infection does not occur.

Today, some drugs can help get rid of hepatitis C permanently. If the disease is left untreated, it can have an extremely negative effect on the condition of the liver.

Vaccination At the moment, there is no registered vaccine against hepatitis C, since the virus has a large number of strains and it is very difficult to create a drug containing an element common to all genotypes. However, several vaccines are in development.

Hepatitis D

This is a more severe form of infection caused by hepatitis B. Infection can occur both simultaneously with hepatitis B and superimposed on hepatitis B already present in the body. The virus is transmitted through blood.

Vaccination Hepatitis B vaccines also protect against hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

This is an acute cyclic viral infection transmitted by the fecal-oral route through the water. It is most often found in regions with hot climates. To avoid this virus, observe hygiene standards and do not drink raw water in countries with an unfavorable epidemiological situation.

After the transferred illness, stable immunity is formed—which often lasts for a lifetime. The outcome of the disease can be positive with complete recovery, or negative if it transitions to the chronic stage.

Vaccination There is a highly effective recombinant vaccine.

Hepatitis F

Scientists initially isolated this type of virus, but further research did not confirm its existence.

Hepatitis G

About one in six people are carriers of this virus. It is transmitted through blood, sexually, and from mother to child during childbirth. It is environmentally unstable and dies instantly when boiled.

The prognosis for a cure is more favorable than for hepatitis C since this type of virus is less variable and does not damage the liver as much.

Vaccination Vaccines are under development.

Hepatitis can be latent, so it is extremely important to check the liver regularly. Modern medicine can cure any type of hepatitis, so make sure you consult your doctor immediately if you suspect you have a form of hepatitis.

02 April 2021

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