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World Hepatitis Day 2020: Understanding The A, B And C Of Hepatitis

World Hepatitis Day: People with liver diseases like hepatitis are at higher risk of catching COVID-19. Read below to know about this condition and keep yourself well-informed.

World Hepatitis Day 2020: Understanding The A, B And C Of Hepatitis

World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28


  1. Hepatitis A and E are usually self-limited infections
  2. Hepatitis B and C are preventable through vaccination
  3. Hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of hepatitis-related deaths

World Hepatitis Day 2020: According to The World Health Organisation, an estimated 40 million people are chronically affected by Hepatitis B and 6 to 12 million people by Hepatitis C in India. Hepatitis is a disease that damages the liver, one of the most important organs in our body as a result of inflammation. It is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis viruses- A, B, C, D and E. Apart from its role in digestion, the liver has many other vital functions and hepatitis damages the structure of the liver resulting in derangement of liver function. Hepatitis A,E, B ,and C are some of the most common types of the disease.

World Hepatitis Day: A, B and C of Hepatitis

Hepatitis A and E

These are the most common type of viral hepatitis that are spread through the faecal-oral route as a result of ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person. The risk of infection is associated with poor sanitation and hygiene and lack of safe water for consumption.

Symptoms: Malaise (general feeling of discomfort, illness, or unease), loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-coloured urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

Who is at risk: Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can get infected with hepatitis A, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis E.

Treatment: Hepatitis A is a self usually self-remitting, treated with supportive medications to relieve the symptoms along with therapies for replacement of fluids that are lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Unlike Hepatitis B and C, this disease is not fatal. However, in certain cases, it can lead to fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure) which can be life threatening. There are safe and effective vaccines available to protect against the hepatitis A virus.

Also read: Are Hepatitis Patients At A Higher Risk Of Contracting Covid-19? Expert Explains

Hepatitis B

This type of hepatitis can cause both acute (loss of liver function that occurs rapidly) and chronic (gradual destruction of liver tissue over time) liver disease. It can increase the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. The virus is commonly transmitted from the mother to the new born at birth as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids. Hepatitis B is also spread by needlestick injury, tattooing, piercing and exposure to infected blood and body fluids, such as saliva and, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. Transmission of the virus may also occur through the reuse of needles and syringes in health-care settings like hospitals.

Symptoms: Most people do not experience symptoms when they are newly infected. The warning signs include jaundice, dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Who is at risk: The likelihood of the infection becoming chronic depends on the age at which you get infected by the virus. For example, 80 to 90 % of infants infected during the first year of life develop chronic infections as compared to 30 to 50% of children who get the disease up to the age of 6 years.

Treatment: Hepatitis B is treated by maintaining adequate nutrition and the fluid balance in the body. Chronic Hepatitis B infection is managed with very effective medication to slow the progression of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis B is preventable with a very effective vaccine and is universally recommended.

Also read: World Hepatitis Day 2020: Understanding The Importance Of Early Diagnosis And Prevention

Hepatitis C

This type of virus can also cause both acute and chronic hepatitis and is a major risk factor for liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus and is commonly transmitted through exposure to small quantities of blood. This can be through injection, unsafe injection practices (drug use) transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products (red blood cells, plasma, platelets etc.).

Symptoms: Fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-coloured faeces, joint pain and jaundice.

Who is at risk: Anyone across any age group who is exposed to the risk factors, can contract the virus

Treatment: Hepatitis C usually does not require specific treatment as the person's own immune system fights against the virus. However, when the virus becomes chronic, treatment is essential. A short 12 week oral treatment can cure hepatitis C with almost 100% efficacy. Currently, there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C and preventing it by minimising exposure to risk factors is crucial.

Being aware of the different types of hepatitis, their causes and risk factors is important to prevent against it. In the current pandemic situation, where patients with underlying medical conditions like liver disease can be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, protecting the liver against common diseases like hepatitis is critical. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to the risk factors can go a long way in strengthening immunity and combatting hepatitis.

Also read: Follow These Prevention Steps To Safeguard Your Liver

(Dr. Randhir Sud Chairman Gastroenterology, Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta Hospital)

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