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The ABCs of Hepatitis

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Summer’s almost here. Isn’t it too late to learn the ABCs? Not when it comes to hepatitis.

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are all liver infections, but caused by three different viruses. For some, it can last a lifetime.

Hepatitis A

Picture this. You spent your vacation relaxing on a tropical beach, toes in the warm sand, munching on local foods and drinking yummy drinks. Weeks later, you start to feel a little bloated with some pain in your tummy, even some cramps. You think back to what you ate earlier and don’t think it would cause you to feel this way. And then it hits. Diarrhea.

Well, that stinks.

Chances are, the Hepatitis A virus was lurking in contaminated food or water that you ate or drank. And, unfortunately, it could hang around for several weeks.

The good news is, most people recover fully from hepatitis A without any lasting liver damage. Better it, it’s even preventable. Before you go on your next adventure, make sure you practice good hygiene and are up to date on your vaccinations. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for international travelers 6 months of age or older going to countries where the infection is common. Talk with your provider if you plan to travel.

Hepatitis B

Now, picture this. You’ve found “the one.” You’re having a nice, romantic evening. You both get caught up in the moment and end the night together without protection.

Here’s the thing. You may have just contracted hepatitis B but not know it. And if you get pregnant, you may transmit the virus to your baby either during pregnancy or delivery.

Not everyone has symptoms, particularly if you’re 30 years old or younger. If you do get symptoms, they could last for up to 6 months and include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin

Hepatitis B can also be caused by shared needles and syringes, shared razors or toothbrushes, and contact with blood from open sores.

Schedule an appointment with your provider to get protected against hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C

You didn’t ever picture yourself like this, feeling such a strong urge and a need for the next high. Your buddy next to you injects a drug into their bloodstream, then gives you the needle. You don’t think much of it, just that you need the drug right now. So, you take the needle and inject yourself, not noticing your buddy’s blood was in the needle.

Twelve weeks later, you experience a fever, feel tired all the time – even depressed – and have many of the same symptoms of hepatitis B. It looks like you may have contracted hepatitis C from that shared needle.

Unchecked, hepatitis C can progress slowly and, over time, develop into chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there’s currently no vaccine for Hepatitis C. However, medicines called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) can be used to treat the virus. DAAs boast cure rates of over 95%.

If you think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis C or are at risk, don’t wait to get tested. Early detection is key to accessing treatment and preventing liver damage.

While these viruses might seem intimidating, understanding how they’re transmitted, prevented, and treated empowers us to take control of our health.

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