What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
What are the different types of viruses?
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening. Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood. Transmission may also occur through transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood products and through injection drug use. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This may happen through transfusions of HCV-contaminated blood and blood products and through injection drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common. There is no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome. Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.
What are the symptoms?
There are often no symptoms at all, so most people are not aware that they have the infection.
However in those that do develop symptoms, they may experience:
- flu-like symptoms
- nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice (where the skin or whites of the eyes may appear yellow)
What's the treatment?
Hepatitis B resolves on its own in most cases. You can relieve your symptoms at home by resting, eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Hepatitis B can progress into chronic hepatitis B which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. Depending on the patient – antivirals can be used to suppress the HBV.
Hepatitis C does not always require treatment as the immune response in some people will clear the infection, and some people with chronic infection do not develop liver damage. When treatment is necessary, the WHO recommends a combination of antivirals to attempt to cure the patient of infection.
What do we test?
At Test Easy we test for the sexually transmitted viral hepatitis with a quick and easy blood test.
We test for the Hepatitis B and C virus with one sample.
Results are available within two days of processing.