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Welcome, medical contents search April 25, 2013
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Viral Hepatitis

  • Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by several different viruses.  There are presently 6 known hepatitis virus types, labeled A-G, plus there are still many others types for which tests have not been developed.  In the U.S., 40% of hepatitis cases are Hepatitis B, 30% Hepatitis A, and 20% Hepatitis C; the remaining 10% of cases are caused by other virus types.
  • To follow is a discussion the 3 most common, Hepatitis A-C.

  • Hepatitis A: Two to 6 weeks after exposure, symptoms are present, i.e., yellow skin color in 88% of adults and 65% of children.  The virus is transmitted by stool and secretions transferred to mouth by hands or food.  Also this virus causes upper abdominal pain, Diarrhea, nausea, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, and enlarged live and spleen.  Liver failure occurs in less than 1% of patients.
  • Hepatitis B: Eight to 24 weeks after exposure, symptoms are present.  The virus is transmitted by body fluids (blood, stool, semen, saliva). Symptoms develop much more slowly, with fatigue, rash, joint pain, followed by yellow skin color (also less frequent in children than adults), fever, fatigue, right upper abdominal pain and itching.  Serious symptoms will involve the kidneys and skin rashes.  Younger children have a higher risk of continued (chronic) infection.  Ninety-five percent of newborns, 20% of children, and 10% of adults will become chronic carriers of the virus for life.  Of these, the infection will resolve spontaneously in 5%-10%.
  • Hepatitis C: Until 1990, this was known as non-A, non-B hepatitis.  Transmitted by blood and sexual contact, this virus has a very long incubation period.  It may take a year before blood test becomes positive.  Symptoms are the same as for Hepatitis B infection.  Although the virus will be chronic for 80% of patients, the liver enzymes may remain relatively normal for several decades.  The virus mutates (changes) quickly, however, and this can cause liver failure and liver cancer after several years.

  • By physical exam and blood testing, as well as history of exposure
  • Rarely, a sample of the liver (biopsy) is necessary for diagnosis.
  • Regular blood tests are necessary to follow a chronic carrier.

  • Hepatitis A: No specific therapy is available. Immunoglobulin can be given to family members before and after exposure.
  • Hepatitis B: HBIG serum can be given after exposure.
  • Interferon therapy is available for chronic carriers, but has only a 35% success rate.  The remaining patients may respond partially but experience relapse.
  • Hepatitis C: None.  Interferon treatment in children is not established.

  • Mild (dehydration) to severe (liver failure and death)
  • Can lead to a chronic carrier state in Hepatitis B, C, and D, which is associated with possible liver failure and liver cancer

  • Safe and effective vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
  • Serum for non-immunized children who have been exposed to Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B
  • Good hand-washing practices among food handlers
  • Safe sex practices
  • Avoid blood products, injecting street drugs, and sharing needles

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