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World Hepatitis Day: Facts most people don't know

In some cases, the chronic infections leave behind long-term health implications.

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2018, 06.20 PM IST
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By Dr BR Das

Hepatitis, a condition where the liver is inflamed and subsequently damaged, is primarily caused by preventable infections. Globally, five viruses - A, B, C, D, and E - cause viral hepatitis. Other causes of hepatitis include autoimmune hepatitis, and the ones that happen as a side effect of drugs, medications, toxins and alcohol. The former occurs when the body creates antibodies against its own liver tissue.

While the liver can combat hepatitis infection on its own in many cases, others become chronic infections that leave behind long-term health implications.

Here are certain facts about the ailment that many people don't know about:

Symptoms can take weeks or months to emerge
Hepatitis is often hard to detect as it manifests with mild flu-like symptoms - fatigue, fever, and body aches - which are mostly neglected by individuals. Other grave symptoms such as skin rashes, weight loss, and yellowing of skin, urine, and eyes (popularly termed as jaundice) may take weeks or months to emerge.

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Hepatitis can also be asymptomatic
In some cases, symptoms could develop after years or not show any signs at all, especially in Hepatitis C. In the case of Hepatitis C and B, many infected people aren't aware about their health status as the ailment is often asymptomatic.

No jaundice doesn't mean no hepatitis
Hepatitis B and C cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, while A and E do not. If Hepatitis A or E patients have a strong immune system, the ailment can be resolved without major medical treatment. The disease only becomes apparent if the liver is affected, after which the symptoms show up. The absence of yellow skin or jaundice does not mean there's no Hepatitis. Currently, vaccines are available only for Hepatitis A and B.

Vaccinations may not always protect babies born to infected mothers
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood, semen, and other body fluids, while hepatitis C only occurs through infected blood. Hepatitis B can be passed on from mother to child during birth, but not Hepatitis C. If a pregnant woman is infected, early vaccination could prevent the virus's transmission to the new-born. Infants of infected mothers can be vaccinated immediately, thereby receiving antibodies to counter the infection. However, in 10% of the cases, the transmission may still occur if virus levels in the mother's blood are already high. Therefore, infected pregnant mothers should be vaccinated early to prevent transmission to the new-born.

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Contaminated water can spread Hepatitis A and E
All hepatitis viruses don't spread through the direct exchange of body fluids. Contaminated food or water can spread Hepatitis A and E. Drinking safe potable water while ensuring proper sanitation and hygienic conditions can help prevent types A and E. South-east Asia holds the highest Hepatitis E incidence, with transmission through the fecal-oral route, mainly through contaminated water.

Delayed treatment can lead to liver cancer
In all cases, proper care and regular check-ups remain essential. Delayed treatment can result in liver inflammation from chronic hepatitis, damaging the cells and leading to liver cancer. Although specific medicines can help control hepatitis, lifestyle changes like avoiding or curbing alcohol consumption are crucial for controlling the progression. In Hepatitis B and C, alcohol can worsen liver scarring and hasten the progression.

Weight-loss can benefit patients
Reducing weight is also helpful because fat accumulation in the liver can be another cause of cirrhosis. Clearly, prevention is better than cure in hepatitis.

(The author is Advisor and Mentor, R&D and Molecular Pathology, SRL Limited)

Be Cautious This Season: Superfoods To Boost Immunity And Keep You Healthy

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Immunity-Boosting Foods

25 Jan, 2018
Monsoon is here and so are the diseases. The change in season can result in various viral infections, flus and poor health conditions. The tricky season can lead to various health problems like sore throat, itchy nose, sneeze, ceaseless cough, common cold, and many water-borne diseases like typhoid, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, diarrhoea, malaria and dengue. While regular exercising and staying hydrated is important, it is crucial to consume the right foods to strengthen your immunity and beat the illness this season. Dolly Kumar, founder and director of Gaia; Eesha Kanade, Obino's health coach; Luke Coutinho, MD in alternative medicine & holistic nutritionist; and holistic health guru Dr Mickey Mehta share a list of best immunity-boosting foods that will keep you healthy.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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