Hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and transplants in the United States. However, due to its slow development more than half of those with hepatitis don’t even realize it and are spreading it to others at an alarming rate. In fact, from 2010 to 2014 the number of hepatitis C infections increased by 250% in the United States alone.
How do I know if I have hepatitis? How do I prevent myself from getting the virus or spreading it to others? What do I do if I test positive for hepatitis?
There are solutions to help those with hepatitis live a long, healthy life and stop the spread of the virus. Here’s all you need to know about hepatitis B & C.
Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a virus that causes liver inflammation, irritation, swelling, or pain. There are five forms of Hepatitis, categorized by the letters A-E.
A: The liver usually heals from hepatitis A within several months. Hepatitis A typically does not lead to chronic infection or other complications.
B: There are 1.2 million cases of Hepatitis B in the United States alone, with about 350 million people infected worldwide. Approximately 95% of adults recover from the virus with no chronic infections. However, the earlier hepatitis B is contracted, the more likely it is to become a life-long, chronic infection.
C: This form of the virus is one of the most common causes of liver disease and the reason for liver transplants in the U.S. There are 2.4 million infected with Hepatitis C in the United States, along with about 170 million people worldwide. Approximately 75% to 85% of patients with hepatitis C develop a chronic liver infection.
D: This virus only happens if the person is already infected by hepatitis B. However, if you are vaccinated against hepatitis B you will be protected against being infected by hepatitis D.
E: This form of the virus is common worldwide and is spread by ingesting contaminated water or food. Vaccines for Hepatitis E exist, but they are not as easily accessible.
Causes of Hepatitis B & C
Hepatitis B & C are the most common forms of the virus, causing both short-term and long-term infections. These forms of the virus can be spread easily from person to person, and if they become chronic can become very dangerous to one’s health.
The virus is not spread through casual contact such as holding hands, sharing food, breastfeeding, kissing, hugging, coughing, or sneezing. Hepatitis B and C are only spread through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a person with the virus. A person can get hepatitis B and C by:
- Sharing dirty needles.
- Having sex with an infected person.
- Being in direct contact with infected blood.
- Getting needle stick injuries.
- Being in contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.
Hepatitis B can be transferred from mother to unborn child during or after birth. All pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B so preventative measures can be taken to prevent transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
Hepatitis B and C are known to be “silent killers” since the disease develops slowly. 67% of those with hepatitis B and 51% with hepatitis C don’t even know they have the virus. The most common symptoms to look out for are:
- Stomach pain or nausea.
- Dark urine.
- Jaundice (when the skin or eye whites turn yellow).
- Pale stool.
- Low-grade fever.
- Loss of appetite.
- Aching joints.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine, but no vaccine is available yet to prevent hepatitis C. There are many other ways you can reduce the chances of getting hepatitis B and C, including:
- Don’t share injection drug needles or other drug equipment.
- Use a condom during sex.
- Practice good personal hygiene.
- Don’t share personal items with someone infected.
- Take precautions for any tattoos or body piercings.
- Ensure you are up to date with the proper vaccines before traveling, especially to areas of the world with poor sanitation.
If a mother has hepatitis B, it is possible to prevent the virus from spreading to the baby. Within 12 hours of birth, the baby needs to receive treatment with hepatitis B antibody and vaccine. All children should get the hepatitis B vaccine, and children under the age of 19 who haven’t had the vaccine should get “catch-up” doses.
Hepatitis B and C can be treated successfully even when chronic.
The most commonly used medications to treat hepatitis B are:
- Entecavir (Baraclude®).
- Telbivudine (Tyzeka®).
- Tenofovir alafenamide (Vemlidy®).
- Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Viread®).
- Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A®).
- Peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys®).
The most commonly used medications to treat hepatitis C are:
- Simeprevir (Olysio®).
- Daclatasvir (Daklinza®).
- Sofosbuvir (Solvadi®); sofusbuvir/velpatasvir (Epclusa®); sofusbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir (Vosevi®); ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni®).
- Ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir (Technivie®); ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir/dasabuvir (Viekira® Pak, Viekira® XR).
- Elbasivir/grazoprevir (Zepatier®).
- Glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (Mavyret®).
If you have hepatitis B or C, it is possible to recover fully. To help improve your health and avoid virus development, it is helpful to avoid alcohol, practice good nutrition, rest, and talk to your health care provider for advice on medicines to take or avoid until you are recovered.
Staging the Intervention
To stage an intervention, first select a trusted interventionist to help with the process. Form a group of people who can support in the intervention who care for the addict. Staying calm, avoiding judgment, avoiding blame, and focusing on expressing how the addiction affects others can be the focus of the intervention.
Planning, preparing, and rehearsing the intervention can help achieve a successful intervention. Deciding on specific consequences and remaining strong with those consequences can show the addicted loved one the seriousness of their disease and actions.
It doesn’t matter exactly how you were infected, what matters is taking care of yourself once you have been diagnosed and taking the steps necessary not to spread it to anyone else. For any questions, symptoms, or worsening of any existing symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider. If you are concerned about your or your loved one getting hepatitis through unsafe drug use, Healthy Life Recovery wants to help. Contact us today to learn more about our Drug & Alcohol Rehab Facility in San Diego, California for guidance on how to stop unsafe drug use.
“Hepatitis B & C.” HIV.gov, 8 Apr. 2021, https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/staying-in-hiv-care/other-related-health-issues/hepatitis-b-and-c.