Finding Help For Hepatitis
If youve been diagnosed with viral hepatitis, there are a variety of resources that are available to help you. Lets explore a few of them below:
- Your doctor. Your doctor is a great first point of contact for questions and concerns. They can help you to better understand the type of hepatitis you have, as well as how it will be treated.
- American Liver Foundation . ALF is dedicated to ending liver disease through education, research, and advocacy. Their site has educational material about viral hepatitis, as well as ways to find doctors, support groups, and clinical trials in your area.
- Patient assistance programs. If you have hepatitis C, the cost of antiviral drugs can be high. The good news is that many drug manufacturers have patient assistance programs that can help you pay for these medications.
The chart below is an at-a-glance summary of some of the key differences between hepatitis A, B, and C.
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Immunisation For Hepatitis B
Immunisation is the best protection against hepatitis B infection. A course of vaccination is recommended for all babies and people in high-risk groups.
Immunisation can be with a vaccine against hepatitis B alone or with a combination vaccine. To be immunised, contact your doctor or local council.
Protection against hepatitis B is available free of charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule. In Victoria, immunisation against hepatitis B is free for:
- Babies at birth immunisation against hepatitis B alone as soon as possible after birth.
- Babies at 2, 4 and 6 months combination immunisation in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine .
- Premature babies at 12 months premature babies born under 32 weeks gestation or under 2,000g birth weight receive a single booster dose.
- Children up to and including 9 years of age.
- People aged less than 20 years having a catch-up immunisation.
- Refugees and humanitarian entrants aged 20 years and above.
In Victoria, free hepatitis B vaccine is provided for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:
Immunisation is also recommended, but not necessarily free, for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:
What Effects Does Hepatitis C Have During Pregnancy
Hepatitis C can be passed on from a pregnant woman to her child during pregnancy and birth, but this is rare. The risk of passing hepatitis on is slightly higher for mothers with both HIV and hepatitis C .
Antivirals used to treat hepatitis are not currently recommended for pregnant women. This is because there isnt enough information to know if the drugs are safe for your unborn baby.
If you have hepatitis C and are pregnant speak to your doctor. They will be able to give you advice on how to keep yourself and your baby safe during pregnancy and birth.
If youre planning to have a baby, your doctor may recommend that you treat the hepatitis C before you get pregnant.
Breastfeeding with hepatitis C is considered safe. But if you have cracked or bleeding nipples, its generally recommended to stop breastfeeding until they have healed.
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When To Get Medical Advice
See your GP for advice if:
- you have symptoms of hepatitis A a blood test can usually confirm whether you have the infection
- you might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus recently but you don’t have any symptoms treatment given early on may be able to stop the infection developing
- you think you might need the hepatitis A vaccine your GP can advise you about whether you should have the vaccine
Although hepatitis A isn’t usually serious, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis to rule out more serious conditions with similar symptoms, such as hepatitis C or cirrhosis .
It may also be necessary to test your friends, family and any sexual partners, in case you’ve spread the infection to them.
Side Effects Of Immunisation Against Hepatitis A
Immunisations against hepatitis A are effective and safe. All medications can have side effects.
For most people, the chance of a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you catch the disease.
Common side effects from the hepatitis A vaccine include:
- localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- low-grade temperature
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What Can I Do If I Think I Have Hepatitis C
A doctor or sexual health clinician can test you to see if you have hepatitis C. If you do, effective treatment with fewer side effects than the older medicine is available and you can discuss how to avoid infecting your sexual partners or people you live with.
It can take three to six months before the blood test for hepatitis C will be able to detect signs of infection in your blood. For people with HIV who may be immunocompromised, the antibody may not be detectable and it may be necessary to request an RNA test which detects the virus.
Is Antiviral Therapy Recommended For Acute Hepatitis B
No. Acute hepatitis B, defined as a positive test for hepatitis B surface antigen and the presence of hepatitis B core antibodyimmunoglobulin M , is a self-limited disease in 90% to 95% of adults and resolves without specific antiviral therapy within 3 to 6 months after the onset of clinical symptoms. For this reason, only supportive care is offered to patients with acute hepatitis B infection. Antiviral therapy is considered only for patients with chronic hepatitis B . For patients with severe acute hepatitis B with evidence of liver dysfunction such as coagulopathy or encephalopathy, antiviral therapy may be considered in this situation, expert consultation is advised.
Prodromos Hytiroglou MD, in, 2018
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How Do I Test For Hepatitis B
A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given extra tests to see if your liver is damaged. You can have a test even if you do not have symptoms.
If youve got hepatitis B you should be tested for other STIs. Its important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated.
Viral Hepatitis And Hepatitis A Outbreak
Southeast Michigan is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A. Information about this outbreak is at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website. Vaccination is recommended to prevent hepatitis A.
if you are concerned about symptoms or risk for viral hepatitis, and you are a U-M student or other UHS patient, you may call for Nurse Advice by Phone.
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What Causes Hepatitis B
- being born to a mother with hepatitis B
- having unprotected sex with an infected person
- sharing drug needles or other drug materials with an infected person
- getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with tools that were used on an infected person and werent properly sterilized, or cleaned in a way that destroys all viruses and other microbes
- having contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- using an infected persons razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers
You cant get hepatitis B from
- being coughed on or sneezed on by an infected person
- drinking unclean water or untreated water that has not been boiled
- eating food that is unclean or has not been properly cooked
- hugging an infected person
- shaking hands or holding hands with an infected person
- sharing spoons, forks, and other eating utensils
- sitting next to an infected person
Mothers who have hepatitis B can safely breastfeed their babies. If a baby receives hepatitis B immune globulin and starts receiving the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent hepatitis B infection shortly after birth, hepatitis B is unlikely to spread from mother to child through breastfeeding.15
How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed
Chronic hepatitis can quietly attack the liver for years without causing any symptoms. Unless the infection is diagnosed, monitored, and treated, many of these people will eventually have serious liver damage. Fortunately, blood tests can determine whether you have viral hepatitis, and if so, which kind.
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Acute Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
As far as we can tell the acute symptoms of hepatitis C are similar for both men and women and are like the flu. Acute symptoms are typically:
If symptoms are caught early enough, treatment can be given before complications set in. Acute symptoms appear one to three months after exposure and frequently go unnoticed.
Another complicating factor in early detection and treatment is that men often do not treat their symptoms or their diagnosis as women do. Studies show that men tend to ignore symptoms more often than women and opt not to report symptoms for many illnesses or to seek preventive health care .
A Note About Sex And Gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms male, female, or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. .
- consuming alcohol
A person should speak with a doctor about how to treat hepatitis C and reduce the risk of their condition worsening.
It is very possible that the number of people with hepatitis C is much higher than estimates suggest, as some people do not know that they have the condition.
For this reason, the recommends that the following individuals undergo testing for hepatitis C:
- children born to a mother with hepatitis C
- people who currently use or formerly used injectable drugs
- any person taking clotting factor concentrates that manufacturers produced before 1987
- any person who underwent a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July 1992
- any person undergoing hemodialysis
to ensure that they do not get the virus.
Examples of these measures include:
- using barrier methods, such as condoms, during sexual activities
- avoiding sharing needles
- seeking reputable tattoo and body piercing parlors for any body art
If a person suspects that they may be at risk of hepatitis C, they should seek advice from a doctor.
Below, we answer some of the most common questions about hepatitis C in males.
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Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis B
People are more likely to get hepatitis B if they are born to a mother who has hepatitis B. The virus can spread from mother to child during birth. For this reason, people are more likely to have hepatitis B if they
- were born in a part of the world where 2 percent or more of the population has hepatitis B infection
- were born in the United States, didnt receive the hepatitis B vaccine as an infant, and have parents who were born in an area where 8 percent or more of the population had hepatitis B infection
People are also more likely to have hepatitis B if they
- are infected with HIV, because hepatitis B and HIV spread in similar ways
- have lived with or had sex with someone who has hepatitis B
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have sex with men
- are injection drug users
- work in a profession, such as health care, in which they have contact with blood, needles, or body fluids at work
- live or work in a care facility for people with developmental disabilities
- have been on kidney dialysis
- live or work in a prison
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before the mid-1980s
In the United States, hepatitis B spreads among adults mainly through contact with infected blood through the skin, such as during injection drug use, and through sexual contact.12
How Do You Get Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- sharing unsterilised needles particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
- through unprotected sex although this is very rare
In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
Its estimated around half of those who inject drugs have been infected with the virus.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Hepatitis B
About 1 in 20 people who get hepatitis B as adults become carriers, which means they have a chronic hepatitis B infection. Carriers are more likely to pass hepatitis B to other people. Most carriers are contagious meaning they can spread hepatitis B for the rest of their lives.
Hepatitis B infections that last a long time may lead to serious liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer. About 1 in 5 people with chronic hepatitis B die from it. There are medicines that can help treat chronic hepatitis B infections.
Most babies who get hepatitis B develop chronic infection, unless they get treated right away. But treatments almost always work if your baby gets them quickly. Thats why its important for pregnant people to get tested for hepatitis B.
What Is Hepatitis C Infection How Many People Are Infected
Hepatitis C virus infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus . It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 41,200 new cases of hepatitis C occurred in 2016. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. About 75%-85% of newly infected people become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than 2 million people are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. HCV infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer. In 2016, 18,153 death certificates listed HCV as a contributing cause of death this is believed to be an underestimate.
Those who have cirrhosis from HCV also have a yearly risk of liver cancer of about 1%-5%.
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Can Viral Hepatitis Be Prevented
Hepatitis A and B can be prevented through vaccinations. Experts recommend that all gay and bisexual men be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. The Hepatitis A and B vaccines can be given separately or as a combination vaccine. The vaccines are safe, effective, and require 2-3 shots within a six month period depending on the type of vaccine. A person should complete all shots in the series for long-term protection. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
One of the reasons hepatitis C can be so damaging is that its possible to have it for years without knowing. Some people may not show any signs of the initial viral infection until the disease has advanced significantly.
Although hepatitis C is asymptomatic in some people, others may have symptoms of the illness within a few months of being exposed to the virus, such as:
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What Are The Side Effects Of Treatments For Hepatitis C Infection
Side effects of interferon or pegylated interferon
- The most common side effects of interferon or pegylated interferon include fever, flu-like symptoms, and depression. Patients must be monitored closely for depression. Risk of suicide is a reason to avoid interferons.
- Interferons also reduce white blood cell and/or red blood cell counts . This may cause increased susceptibility to infection. Interferons also increase the risk of certain cancers. Death rarely occurs as a result of therapy, but may occur from progression of liver failure in patients with advanced cirrhosis.
Side effects of ribavirin
- Ribavirin most commonly causes anemia due to destruction of red blood cells . This can be severe enough that people with heart disease may suffer a heart attack from insufficient blood flow, so people with heart disease should not receive this drug. Anemia improves with a reduction in the dose of ribavirin. Injected growth factor that stimulates the production of red blood cells often is used to improve the anemia associated with ribavirin. Ribavirin also accumulates in the testicles and ovaries and causes birth defects in animals. Although no birth defects have been reported in humans, both men and women should use contraceptive measures to avoid pregnancy during and for at least six months after ribavirin treatment.
Side effects of DAAs
How Do You Test For Hepatitis B
A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given extra tests to see if your liver is damaged.
If youve got hepatitis B you should be tested for other STIs. Its important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have hepatitis B dont notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. This can also stop you from getting the infection again.
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