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Timely Diagnosis and vaccination crucial to prevent Hepatitis-related illnesses, says Dr Mohinish Chhabra

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Mohali, July 28, 2023: To spread awareness about Hepatitis and complications related to it, World Hepatitis Day is observed on 28th July every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) theme for World Hepatitis Day-2023 is ‘One Life, One Liver’.

Dr Mohinish Chhabra, Director, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital Mohali, through an advisory explains the causes, symptoms and ways to prevent hepatitis. Giving an insight on hepatitis, Dr Chhabra, said, “Awareness about hepatitis viruses is the need of the hour. If not diagnosed properly, hepatitis can lead to inflammation of the liver and cause complications such as liver failure, liver cirrhosis and even liver cancer.”

· What is Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the liver. Liver inflammation can be caused by several viruses (viral hepatitis), chemicals, drugs, alcohol, certain genetic disorders or by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks the liver, called autoimmune hepatitis. Depending on its course, hepatitis can be acute, which flares up suddenly and then goes away, or chronic, which is a long-term condition usually producing more subtle symptoms and progressive liver damage. The disease is caused by hepatitis viruses A, B, C, E or D (Delta) along with some rare viruses like Epstein–Barr virus (EB).

· Symptoms
Patients exhibit symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, lethargy, dark urine, jaundice, abdominal pain and swelling of feet.

· Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A & E
Hepatitis A and E spread through contaminated food and water and can cause liver failure. Both A and E viruses cause acute illness which presents as jaundice and fever, generally lasting for a few days. However, it can even be fatal in a few cases. These viruses do not cause chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B & C
These are of a greater concern as they can cause chronic hepatitis, which can lead to cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer. Hepatitis B can also cause acute hepatitis indistinguishable from jaundice caused by Hepatitis A or B viruses. These two viruses are spread by contaminated blood or through body fluids; and not through contaminated food. Hepatitis C generally presents for the first time with chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. While Hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D is a liver infection and can cause serious symptoms that can lead to life-long liver damage and even death. It’s sometimes called hepatitis delta virus (HDV) or delta hepatitis.

· Prevention & Vaccination
To safeguard oneself from Hepatitis A and E, consume clean drinking water, and avoid eating cut fruits and vegetables in market places. Two doses of vaccine given six months apart help prevent the infection due to hepatitis A. This vaccine is given to children up to 18 years of age. Adults, who have not been vaccinated, also can be given the vaccine. Vaccination remains the key to prevent illnesses due to Hepatitis A and B. Three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine with the second and third doses given one and six months after the first dose provide 90% protection for over 20 years. The high-risk groups include people on dialysis, transplant patients, intravenous drug users, prison inmates, medical professionals and sex workers. Avoid getting tattoos, visiting roadside barbers, sharing syringes and needles, besides using personal belongings of an infected person such as razors, toothbrush etc. Practice safe sex.

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