Hepatitis

The viral infection causing inflammation of the liver is Hepatitis. There are three types of viral infection (hepatitis A, B and C) and after alcoholism, they are the most common cause of cirrhosis of the liver.

Hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated food, water or blood and often occurs in areas of poor sanitation.

Both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are only found in infected blood and is transmitted by sharing hypodermic needles and razors with an infected individual, sexually transmitted or by receiving contaminated blood transfusions. However, strict screening of donated blood products since 1991, has seen the fall in numbers of infections contracted in this way.

Hepatitis B on the other hand remains prevalent among drug addicts. Severe hepatitis may cause jaundice (a yellowish tinge to the eyes and skin caused by bile pigments) and the individual may also feel pain in the abdomen and a general feeling of unwell.

If left untreated the infection can cause the destruction of the liver cells resulting in cirrhosis and liver insufficiency.

Infected individuals may or may not need hospitalization but all are treated with a lengthy course of anti-viral. During this period it is also advisable to completely abstain from alcohol in order to allow the liver to fully recover.

If the cirrhosis is severe, liver transplantation may be the only treatment available. Of course, not sharing needles or razors will help prevent the contraction of this disease, but there are also Vaccines for Hepatitis B available for those at risk (particularly hospital workers), and contraction of hepatitis A can be avoided by taking gamma globulin while exposed in areas of high risk.

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