World Health Organization (WHO) organizes the ‘World Hepatitis Day’ on this day (July 28th) every year to create awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis among people. Worldwide, at least 2 million people die because of hepatitis and WHO is taking every step possible to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Let us have a brief insight into viral hepatitis, its causes, variants and treatment procedures.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver generally caused by the hepatitis virus and toxins, autoimmune diseases, medications and infections are the other common causing agents. Hepatitis is of five different types (types A, B, C, D and E) and can be confirmed only by a blood test. Hepatitis A and E spread through contaminated food and water, hepatitis B and C are blood borne and hepatitis D occurs in people with HBV. Here we are discussing about hepatitis A and E which spread through food & water due to lack of nutritive food and a hygienic environment.
Hepatitis A is transmitted through fecal–oral interaction. It is passed via food and drinks contaminated with the feces of the infected person which is predominantly the case in developing countries. It is common in people who keep travelling around different countries with high hepatitis A prevalence, day care children and people drinking contaminated water or eating raw/uncooked food. The virus is present in the body anywhere between few weeks to several months.
The virus comes and goes on its own and there is no treatment as such available for this. We can only treat the symptoms independently. Some common suggestions include eating small meals throughout the day, replenishing yourself with plenty of fluids, getting ample rest, following extreme hygiene practices and taking simple antibiotics for aches or pains after consulting your doctor. There is minimal chance of a liver failure in this case.
Here again, the virus is spread through fecal–oral interaction where it is passed via food and drinks contaminated with the feces of the infected person. Contaminated water is the primary cause of hepatitis E. This itself proves the need for a thorough hand wash after using the loo and the need to drink boiled water. Easy hand washing techniques discussed at www.firsteatright.com are helpful to stay clean and hygienic. While there is no life-damaging effect of this virus, the liver can be affected in case of patients with pre-existing chronic liver disease and in pregnant women. Here again, you don’t have a customized treatment plan available and the best way is to follow hygienic practices, eat healthy foods and avoid drinking water/consuming ice from unknown sources.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination against the virus. Vaccines are prescribed for infants above 12 months, for travelers who are travelling to high hepatitis A-risk areas and for individuals with certain medical conditions.
A vaccine to prevent hepatitis E infection is registered and available in China but not yet approved in other countries. Even though the World Health Organization does not recommend the use of the vaccine due to lack of evidence, national authorities can decide to use the vaccine based on the local epidemiology.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.