The Ultimate Guide To Viral Hepatitis

What Is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a group of viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. These viruses can damage liver cells, leading to scar tissue formation and impaired liver function. Symptoms can range from mild, such as fatigue, to more severe, such as mental confusion (asha).

Sexual activity carries a higher risk of transmitting hepatitis B than the other viral types of hepatitis. Transmission can also occur through blood transfusions, sharing of intravenous needles, and organ transplants (asha).

Common Sexually Transmitted Infections

HPV

Genital Herpes

Chlamydia

Gonorrhoea

HIV/AIDS

Syphilis

Trichomoniasis

Viral Hepatitis

Male Urethritis Syndrome

Viral Hepatitis

Quick Facts About Hepatitis

Hepatitis B is considered to be the most sexually transmissible form of viral hepatitis (hiv.gov, 2022).

There are five major types of viral hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.

People with multiple sexual partners, men who have sex with men, and those who engage in rough sexual practices are at higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted hepatitis (CDC, 2020).

✔ Hepatitis A and B are common in South Africa, but we don’t have a lot of information on how common hepatitis C, D, and E are. However, there have been some rare cases of hepatitis E in people who travelled to high-risk areas outside of South Africa (SAHIVSoc.org, 2019).

How To Protect Yourself Against Hepatitis

1. Use barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms or dental dams, during sexual activity.

2. Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. These vaccines are highly effective and can help prevent catching this virus.

3. Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, or other objects that may come into contact with blood.

Information take from HIV.gov, (2022).

A, B & C Types Of Hepatitis Explained

There are five major types of viral hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.

There is limited data on hepatitis C, D and E in South Africa. But, occasional cases of hepatitis E have been reported as a result of travel to high-risk areas outside South Africa.

Hepatitis A (HAV)

How Do You Catch Hepatitis A?

Generally, Hepatitis A or HAV is passed on when a person gets faecal matter (poop particles) into their mouth (CDC, 2020).

HAV is transmitted through (CDC, 2020):

✔ Close person-to-person contact with an infected person.

✔ Sexual contact with an infected person.

✔ Eating or drinking of contaminated food or water.

❌ Although viremia occurs early in infection, catching HAV through the blood is uncommon.

Hepatitis A In South Africa

A study was done by Plessis et al., (2022), with 1220 South African children between 4 and 11 years old. This research found that by the time they reach 10 years of age, around 68.6% of the group had been exposed to the virus (Plessis et al., 2022).

The research also found that living in informal housing and getting older were linked to having HAV antibodies in the blood. However, having HIV did not seem to increase the likelihood of having HAV antibodies (Plessis et al., 2022).

Hepatitis B (HBV)

How Do You Catch Hepatitis B?

HBV (hepatitis B virus) is a virus that can spread from one person to another through contact with infected blood, semen, and other body fluids (CDC, 2020).

This can happen if the fluids come into contact with an open cut, the inside of the mouth or nose, or through sexual contact (CDC, 2020).

The virus is mainly spread in these ways (CDC, 2020):

✔ From a mother who has the virus to her baby when the baby is born

✔ Through sexual contact with someone who has the virus

✔ By sharing needles, syringes, or other drug equipment that have the virus on them

HBV can also be spread less commonly through (CDC, 2020):

✔ Accidental pricks or cuts from needles or other sharp objects that have the virus on them

✔ Organ transplantation or dialysis from an infected donor

Sharing items like razors or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus, or through contact with open sores of an infected person.

Hepatitis B In South Africa

Many people in South Africa have a hepatitis B infection. An estimated 3.4 million individuals (6.7%) in the country have a hepatitis B surface infection (SAHIVSoc.org, 2019).

Hepatitis C (HCV)

How Do You Catch Hepatitis C?

HCV (hepatitis C virus) can be spread directly through contact with infected blood (CDC, 2020). It can also spread through contact with blood on mucous membranes, but this is not as common (CDC, 2020).

This form of the virus is mainly spread in the following ways (CDC, 2020):

Sharing needles, syringes or other equipment that are used to inject drugs, is the most common way people get HCV.

HCV can also be spread less commonly through (CDC, 2020):

✔ From an infected mother to her baby during birth

✔ Through sexual contact with someone who has the virus

Getting a tattoo from an unregulated source.

✔ Accidental pricks or cuts from needles or other sharp objects that have the virus on them

Hepatitis C In South Africa

Hepatitis C is most common among certain groups of people. Recent studies found that in Pretoria, up to 93% of people who inject drugs have hepatitis C. (SAHIVSoc.org, 2019).

Hepatitis A:

✔ Sympoms typically develop in 30% of children (<6) and 70% of infected older children and adults.

✔ Symptoms appear 15 to 50 days after exposure, with an average of 28 days.

Hepatitis B:

Most children under 5 and newly HIV positive people don’t develop any symptoms, whilst 30% to 50% of people over 5 years old do develop symptoms

When Do Hepatitis Symptoms Begin?

✔ Symptoms appear 60 to 150 days after exposure, with an average of 90 days.

Hepatitis C:

✔ Around 20-30% of people with this condition may experience jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Non-specific symptoms like a lack of appetite, feeling unwell, or abdominal pain may be present in around 10-20% of people.

✔ Symptoms appear 14 to 182 days after exposure, with an average of 14–84 days.

Hepatitis Symptoms

The symptoms of all the different types of viral hepatitis are similar and can include one or more of the following (CDC, 2020):

✔ Low-grade fever

✔ Malaise (feeling of ill-health)

✔ Abdominal discomfort

✔ Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)

✔ Loss of appetite

✔ Dark-coloured urine

✔ Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

✔ Nausea

Is Hepatitis Dangerous For Your Health?

Hepatitis A (CDC, 2020):

Most people who have acute hepatitis A recover without lasting damage to their liver. Death from acute hepatitis A is rare, but can happen, especially among older people and those with underlying liver disease.

Hepatitis B:

Acute hepatitis B is rarely fatal, and most people recover without any lasting liver damage. However, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver diseases such as cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer in 15-25% of cases.

Chronic hepatitis B infection is more likely to develop in certain groups:

✔ Around 90% of infants who catch HBV at birth will develop chronic infection.

✔ 25-50% of children who become infected between the ages of 1 to 5 years will develop chronic infection.

Only 5% of adults who become infected with HBV will develop chronic infection.

Chronic hepatitis C infection develops in (CDC, 2020):

✔ Over 50% of newly infected people.

It is estimated that 95% of individuals with chronic HBV and/ or HCV are unaware of their infection (SAHIVSoc.org, 2019).

If left untreated, hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can lead to serious health problems.

Some people with HBV infection may develop chronic (long-term) infection. This can happen if the virus remains in a person’s body for a prolonged period, usually more than six months.

What Happens If Hepatitis Is Left Untreated?

Chronic hepatitis B infection is more likely to develop in certain groups (CDC, 2020):

✔ Around 90% of infants who catch HBV at birth will develop chronic infection.

✔ 25-50% of children who become infected between the ages of 1 to 5 years will develop chronic infection.

Only 5% of adults who become infected with HBV will develop chronic infection.

Chronic hepatitis C infection develops in (CDC, 2020):

✔ Over 50% of newly infected people.

What Happen’s If You Get A Chronic Hepatitis B Infection (HBV)

Chronic HBV infection can lead to liver damage, liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and even liver failure, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of chronic HBV infection may not be noticeable in the early stages, but as the disease progresses, individuals may experience symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Therefore, it’s essential to get tested for HBV if you’re at risk of infection and seek treatment if necessary to prevent long-term complications.

Hepatitis is treatable, but the specific treatment options depend on the type of hepatitis and the severity of the disease (CDC, 2020).

Hepatitis A:

✔ No medication available

✔ Best addressed through supportive treatment

Hepatitis B:

Acute hepatitis cannot be treated with medication, but symptoms can be managed with supportive treatment.

Is Hepatitis Treatable?

On the other hand, chronic hepatitis requires regular monitoring to detect any signs of liver disease progression. Antiviral drugs are available to slow down or stop the disease from worsening.

Hepatitis C:

Acute: It is recommended to start treatment for acute hepatitis C without waiting, according to AASLD/IDSA.

Chronic: More than 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured with oral therapy lasting 8–12 weeks, regardless of the type of hepatitis C virus they have.

How To Test For Hepatitis B With Epicentre

Epicentre offers a range of STI tests, including Hepatitis testing.

✔ Walk-in or book online for one of our branches and request an STI screening.

✔ If you’d like to get you’d like to get tested at home, check out our STI Test In a Box.

✔ Unsure? Contact our team. We’re so happy to guide you through this process.

Testing For Hepatitis With Epicentre

1. Book an appointment online or just come through to one of our branches.

2. When you arrive, tick on our form that you would like a hepatitis STI test.

Choose just the hepatitis STIs, or get the whole package, or add on particular STIs to screen for.

4. Our nurse will take you through to our blood collection lounge.

5. Our nurses are trained to make the process of collecting a blood sample as painless and comfortable as possible. Simply sit back and relax.

4. Your sample will then be sent to our laboratory. You will receive an SMS and email with a link to your result.

Why Is STI Testing The Start Of A Health Relationship

Regular STI testing helps to protect both partners from potential infections and prevent the spread of STIs to others. It is also a sign of respect and trust for each other, as it shows that both partners are committed to maintaining their sexual health and the health of their relationship.

STI testing is crucial as it begins a relationship with open communication and honesty, which are crucial components of any healthy relationship. By starting with STI testing, partners can set the foundation for a strong and lasting relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and a shared commitment to sexual health.

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