Viral hepatitis is a common and life-threatening infection of the liver caused by hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses. The symptoms include severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, malaise, and jaundice. It has been estimated that about 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C.
Different Types Of Hepatitis Viruses
Although there are different types of hepatitis viruses, infection with hepatitis C viruses is the most common. To understand how to prevent hepatitis, it’s important to understand what type causes what infection.1
- Hepatitis A virus spreads by consuming beverages or food that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
- Hepatitis B is spread to a newborn from an infected mother during childbirth. This type can also spread by exchange of contaminated body fluids like blood and semen.
- Hepatitis C also spreads through exposure to the blood of an infected person. This type is frequently seen in intravenous drug users and unsafe injection use.
- Hepatitis D is passed through contact with infected blood.
- Hepatitis E spreads mainly through contaminated drinking water.
Although a very scary disease, viral hepatitis can be prevented by adopting some simple measures as a part of your lifestyle. Here are 6 ways you can avoid the risk of viral hepatitis and protect your liver health.
1. Make Hand Washing A Must
Hand washing with a medicated soap or liquid for at least 3 minutes should become a norm for everyone. Harmful pathogens including hepatitis viruses can take refuge in your hands and enter your body if hands remain unclean. Especially if you are a healthcare personnel should follow this meticulously. Proper hand hygiene using handwashes or sanitizers should be practiced multiple times in a day.
2. Don’t Drink Or Eat Riskily
Washing any fruit and vegetable before eating can lower your chances of contaminated food. Even when it comes to drinking water, go for purified or boiled and cooled water. If you travel often stick to bottled water and avoid ice. Researchers have found that people who eat raw shellfish varieties like oysters, clams, and mussels can also get infected with hepatitis A. Therefore, avoid compromising your health by eating and drinking clean.
3. Prevent Exposure To Infected Blood
If you are a caretaker or a healthcare professional, you should be doubly careful to protect yourself from accidental needle prick injuries while handling infected patients. Similar to HIV, hepatitis B and C is common among drug addicts who share needles.2
4. Practice Safe Sex
Much like any sexually transmitted disease, even hepatitis can spread through unprotected sexual contact. For the sake of your partner and yourself use condoms while having sex. Direct contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions and feces during coitus with an infected partner can heighten your chances of contracting the disease.
5. Avoid Cosmetic Procedures In Unsterile Environments
Tattoos, piercings and well-maintained feet and nails look really cool. However, before you submit yourself to such a procedure take a good look at the salon or tattoo parlor you are at. Remember to avail services from a reputed tattoo artist or beautician. Make sure that the equipment used for the procedure is new and sterilized.3
Studies have revealed that tattooing is as risky as sharing infected needles and blood transfusion. When you need a professional manicure or pedicure, take your personal nail clippers and files for the same so that you avoid any risk of getting an infection.4
6. Vaccinate Against Hepatitis
The best way to prevent a potentially lethal hepatitis infection is to take a preventive vaccine against hepatitis A and B. It can be given in 2—3 doses and is specifically recommended for travelers who are visiting places with poor sanitation. Even healthcare providers who are in contact with patients are advised to get vaccinated. The vaccines can protect you for about 15—20 years from an infection5
Despite being a preventable disease, the incidence of people falling ill with hepatitis is on the rise. Adopt the tips above and prevent your risk of contracting the infection.
|↑1||World Hepatitis Day. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention|
|↑2||Viral Hepatitis—A Very Real Consequence of Substance Use. National Institute On Drug Abuse|
|↑3||Carney, Kerrilynn, Sameer Dhalla, Ayse Aytaman, Craig T. Tenner, and Fritz Francois. “Association of tattooing and hepatitis C virus infection: A multicenter case‐control study.” Hepatology 57, no. 6 (2013): 2117-2123.|
|↑4||de Oliveira, Andréia Cristine Deneluz Schunck, and Roberto Focaccia. “Survey of hepatitis B and C infection control: procedures at manicure and pedicure facilities in São Paulo, Brazil.” The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases 14, no. 5 (2010): 502-507.|
|↑5||Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention|