Viral hepatitis is a liver disease caused by viruses. There are 6 currently known viruses that causes this disease, three of which are most commonly encountered in Poland: hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus. 1
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How can HBV and HCV infection be contracted?
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection can be contracted by contact with blood or secretions (saliva, sperm, vaginal secretions) of an infected person.
Therefore, the infection can be contracted:
During potentially safe procedures where the skin is broken
An infection can occur through contact with medical and non-medical instruments that have not been effectively sterilised, e.g. when making a tattoo or during cosmetic procedures 1
How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?
For a long time, an infection with hepatitis viruses is not associated with any symptoms that would be noticed by the patient and that would allow an early diagnosis. Hepatitis B virus may not give any symptoms even for 6 months after the infection; for hepatitis C virus it is even a few years. Both HBV and HCV give unspecific symptoms at an early stage. They may include:
How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?
An infection with HBV or HCV is diagnosed through a general interview with the patient as well as laboratory tests and imaging examinations, which help assess changes that have occurred in the body as a result of viral activity. Additionally, in patients with an enlarged liver, biopsy is performed, which means taking a sample of liver cells for examination.2,5
How is viral hepatitis treated? 1
Treatment of viral hepatitis consists in taking antiviral medicines and medicines that will relieve the burdensome symptoms. Such medicines can only be prescribed by a doctor. In addition to the above, the following should be ensured:
Physical and mental rest
Avoiding any stimulants – patients are strictly prohibited to drink any alcohol for one year after the disease onset
How to prevent viral hepatitis B and C?
The most effective form of preventing the infection is undergoing prophylactic vaccination. Owing to the introduction of prophylactic vaccination against viral hepatitis B, mandatory for all newborns and adolescents, the incidence of this disease has been significantly reduced in Poland. However, no vaccine against hepatitis C virus has been developed so far.1
Measures to reduce the risk of infection include keeping high hygiene standards, avoidance of sharing personal objects such as a toothbrush with other people, selecting beauty and tattoo parlours with high hygiene standards, using mechanical protection during sex.5
The chance for a complete cure depends on the cause of acute viral hepatitis. HAV does not cause chronic inflammation. In contrast, it can be caused by HBV and HCV infections:
- by HBV within a range of 2-10%,
- by HCV within a range of 55-75%.1
According to WHO, in 2015 approximately 71 million people suffered from a chronic infection with hepatitis C virus, while more than 1.2 million people were living with chronic infection with hepatitis B virus.
Also in 2015, 399,000 deaths were attributed to hepatitis C and 887,000 deaths were attributed to hepatitis B – mainly due to hepatic cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (i.e. primary liver cancer).3
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Learn more about the most common liver diseases
Autoimmune diseases can be compared to self-sabotage – it is a situation in which your body starts attacking its own tissues. In AIH, the immune system attacks hepatocytes, which are liver cells.
Drug-induced liver injury
The mechanisms for the development of DILI are not fully understood, but it is most likely that the disease is the result of an interaction between the substance and the individual factors of the person.
Juszczyk J. Ostre wirusowe zapalenie wątroby (WZW), Medycyna Praktyczna, Gastrologia http://gastrologia.mp.pl/choroby/watroba/50949,ostre-wirusowe-zapalenie-watroby-wzw. accessed on: 10/03/2021
MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Topic: Hepatitis B.; https://medlineplus.gov/hepatitisb.html accessed on: 08/03/2021
WHO Hepatitis C fact sheet https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c accessed on: 17/03/2021
Wnuk A. Wirusy hepatotropowe a zakażenie HIV, Borgis - Postępy Nauk Medycznych 3/2004, pp. 18-25
MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Topic: Hepatitis C.; https://medlineplus.gov/hepatitisc.html accessed on: 11/02/2021