There are numerous varieties of hepatitis, a serious health condition which causes inflammation of the liver, amongst other symptoms. In this article, one of the most common forms of the virus, Hepatitis C, will be discussed, along with less common forms of the virus – Hepatitis D, E, F, and G.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
Hepatitis C can be spread through blood or body fluids. The virus is generally spread when an individual comes into contact with the blood of an infected individual. Though HCV can be spread through sexual activity, this is relatively uncommon. The virus can also be passed from a mother to a child at birth.
HCV has an incubation period of 14 to 180 days. Though many infected individuals do not develop symptoms, some do. These symptoms commonly include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and fatigue. Symptoms are the same for all individuals affected by hepatitis.
Unfortunately, researchers have not yet discovered a vaccine for Hepatitis C. There are, however, medications that can be taken to treat chronic HCV sufferers. Individuals suffering from chronic HCV are at a much higher risk for liver failure and liver cancer than the general population. The Hepatitis C virus is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.
Hepatitis D Virus (HDV)
Hepatitis D is a form of hepatitis most commonly associated with Hepatitis B. The condition is considered a “sub-viral satellite,” as it can only replicate in the presence of the Hepatitis B virus. Individuals may become “co-infected” with HDV at the same time as HBV or may be acquired by an individual who is already affected by Hepatitis B. In the latter instance, the condition is considered a “superinfection.”
When an individual is simultaneously co-infected with HBV and HDV, acute forms of both viruses will occur. Either one or two bouts of acute hepatitis may occur. Co-infected individuals have better prospects than those suffering from a superinfection. Co-infections of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis D are acute and limited in 95% of patients. Only 5% of co-infected individuals will acquire chronic Hepatitis D.
Prospects are not as good for individuals suffering from HBV-HDV superinfections. In 80% of cases, superinfection will cause severe acute hepatitis followed by the development of chronic Hepatitis D. Patients with superinfections are also more likely to develop other hepatic conditions, many of which lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
As Hepatitis D only occurs in patients with Hepatitis B, individuals should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B to eliminate the risk of acquiring either form of the virus.
Hepatitis E Virus (HEV)
Though Hepatitis E Virus is common throughout the developing world, it is relatively rare amongst individuals living in developed nations. The virus is generally spread when individuals consume food or water supplies contaminated with feces. Direct person-to-person transmission of HEV is uncommon.
Symptoms of HEV are similar to all other forms of hepatitis and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. Infections are usually acute and limited, and patients generally recover on their own. Some cases of HEV become chronic, however, leading to high risks of liver failure and death.
There is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis E in the United States. A vaccine has, however, been developed in China.
Hepatitis F and G Viruses
Hepatitis F Virus was thought to have been discovered in the 1990’s. Since then, however, the condition has been proven not to exist.
Hepatitis G Virus is similar in structure to Hepatitis C Virus. At present, it has not been found to be infectious or cause any serious illness. Though it almost always coexists with other forms of the virus, it has been found to exist on its own as well. The condition requires no therapy or treatment.
When it comes to hepatitis, good sanitation and preventative measures are the best ways to stay healthy. If you are travelling to different parts of the world, it is important to be aware of the ways in which hepatitis can be transmitted. Being cautious with food, water, blood, and sexual practices will generally keep you safe from hepatitis.