Hepatitis can be defined in simple terms as an inflammation of the liver. There are various causes of hepatitis; the most common are viral infections (Hepatitis A, B and C) and Alcoholic Hepatitis. While these causes all result in liver damage, it is important to note that these diseases are distinct from each other and have different symptoms, treatments and risk factors.
Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). This virus is transmitted mainly through food and water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. Poor sanitation and lack of clean water are the two main risk factors for Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A causes acute liver failure and generally isn’t fatal
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus and is spread by contact with blood or other bodily fluids of infected persons. Hepatitis B can cause both chronic and acute liver failure and can be rapidly fatal.
Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. This particular virus is blood-borne, those most at risk of developing Hepatitis C are IV drug users who partake in the sharing of needles. Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic liver failure.
Alcoholic Hepatitis is caused by sustained excessive alcohol intake over a period of years. Symptoms include jaundice and abdominal distention due to fluid build-up. Alcoholic Hepatitis usually leads to chronic liver failure. Liver Cirrhosis is also commonly observed in patients suffering from Alcoholic Hepatitis.
There are vaccines available that can easily prevent Hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C and Alcoholic Hepatitis but taking simple precautions such as limiting alcohol intake and safe handling of needles can help prevent these diseases.
Every year WHO organizes World Hepatitis Day on the 28 July in order to increase awareness about the disease.