Health and well­be­ing

Public Sector Manager - - Contents - Source: Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees Med­i­cal Scheme

The global ight against hep­ati­tis

Knowl­edge is power. Vac­ci­nate and learn to

recog­nise the symp­toms of hep­ati­tis.

Would you recog­nise the signs and symp­toms of hep­ati­tis if you or a loved one de­vel­oped them? While not all types of hep­ati­tis are eas­ily pre­ventable, aware­ness of this group of health con­di­tions af­fect­ing the liver can help peo­ple seek the med­i­cal care they need and take pre­cau­tions to pre­vent in­fec­tion as far as pos­si­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion's (WHO) re­cent global re­port on hep­ati­tis, vi­ral forms of this dis­ease claimed 1.34 mil­lion lives world­wide in 2015 a death toll it claims is com­pa­ra­ble with that of HIV/Aids and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.The WHO is lead­ing a cam­paign to erad­i­cate vi­ral hep­ati­tis by 2030.

Un­for­tu­nately, hep­ati­tis re­mains a global health chal­lenge, with the hep­ati­tis A, B and C viruses be­ing the most com­monly oc­cur­ring in South Africa. Some types of hep­ati­tis can progress to cause per­ma­nent scar­ring of the liver, or chronic liver fail­ure, com­monly known as cir­rho­sis. This can in­crease the risk of de­vel­op­ing some types of liver can­cer. Most peo­ple who de­velop liver dam­age to this ex­tent re­quire a liver trans­plant to sur­vive.

Vi­ral hep­ati­tis

Vi­ral forms of hep­ati­tis some­times be­gin with symp­toms sim­i­lar to flu, loss of ap­petite and ab­dom­i­nal ten­der­ness. The whites of the eyes and the skin – par­tic­u­larly the soles of the feet and palms of the hands – may de­velop

a yel­low­ish colour.The urine may be darker than usual and stools may be a pale colour, in­di­cat­ing yel­low jaun­dice.

Hep­ati­tis A virus

The hep­ati­tis A virus (HAV) is spread when a per­son eats food or drinks wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with in­fected an­i­mal or hu­man fae­ces, or comes into phys­i­cal con­tact with a per­son who is in­fected. When HAV out­breaks oc­cur, the virus can spread quickly. Most peo­ple make a full re­cov­ery within a month or two, and do not suf­fer last­ing liver dam­age. In some cases, how­ever, HAV can be lifethreat­en­ing.

HAV can usu­ally be pre­vented by en­sur­ing drink­ing wa­ter has been ad­e­quately pu­ri­fied, wash­ing hands thor­oughly be­fore eat­ing or touch­ing the mouth, and proper food hy­giene. An HAV vac­ci­na­tion is avail­able and has helped to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce in­fec­tions.

Hep­ati­tis B virus

The hep­ati­tis B virus (HBV) is one of the most com­mon vi­ral ill­nesses in the world as it is highly in­fec­tious.The virus is found in the bod­ily flu­ids of in­fected peo­ple and can be spread through sex­ual con­tact, ex­po­sure to blood, sweat, tears and breast milk. It can be trans­mit­ted from mother to child dur­ing birth. Hep­ati­tis B can also be spread by shared sy­ringes or tat­too­ing equip­ment that has not been prop­erly ster­ilised.

Most peo­ple with acute HBV do not de­velop long-term liver dam­age. How­ever, if the virus be­comes chronic, your doc­tor may pre­scribe an­tivi­ral medicine to help pre­vent fur­ther dam­age to the liver.

For­tu­nately, a vac­cine that can pre­vent HBV in­fec­tion is widely avail­able and should form part of child­hood vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes. If you were not vac­ci­nated against HBV or have not vac­ci­nated your chil­dren against HBV, it is im­por­tant to visit your gen­eral prac­ti­tioner for ad­vice.

Hep­ati­tis C virus

The hep­ati­tis C virus (HCV) is spread through con­tact with in­fected blood. This can hap­pen if a per­son touches the blood of some­one who has the virus, or through us­ing con­tam­i­nated sy­ringes or other non-ster­ile med­i­cal equip­ment.

No vac­ci­na­tion against HCV ex­ists yet, although there are on­go­ing ef­forts to de­velop one. HVC is one of the more dan­ger­ous forms of hep­ati­tis be­cause, ac­cord­ing to WHO, in 55 to 85 per cent of pa­tients the con­di­tion pro­gresses to chronic HVC, mean­ing that they have a sig­nif­i­cant risk of de­vel­op­ing cir­rho­sis.

Toxic hep­ati­tis

Toxic hep­ati­tis is most com­monly caused by al­co­hol abuse, but can also be caused by cer­tain chem­i­cals, drugs or cer­tain nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments. Be sure to con­sult your doc­tor about proper use of pre­scribed medicines and over-the-counter medicines be­cause these can cause liver dam­age if not taken prop­erly.

The dam­age to the liver may not im­me­di­ately show symp­toms, but could even­tu­ally re­sult in com­plete liver fail­ure.

Cer­tain types of hep­ati­tis can progress quickly and may re­sult in se­ri­ous, ir­repara­ble liver dam­age or liver fail­ure.This is why it is im­por­tant to be aware of the symp­toms that may ac­com­pany hep­ati­tis and seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

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