Viral hepatitis is an infection that can damage the liver by causing inflammation in the organ. Hepatitis is caused by many different viruses including hepatitis A, B, C, D and E virus.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are millions of people living with hepatitis B or C in the world - two of the most common causes of chronic hepatitis.
Still, there are various myths associated with the transmission of hepatitis viruses. On World Hepatitis Day, let us bust some of the most common ones:
Myth 1: All hepatitis viruses are the same and spread similarly.
Fact: Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses are different and they have different modes of transmission. Hepatitis A and E viruses are spread through contact with food and water that may have been contaminated by an infected person, hepatitis E is also spread through certain types of undercooked meat. The mode of transmission for hepatitis B, C and D viruses is mostly through coming in contact with an infected patient’s blood.
Myth 2: Hepatitis A virus is the most common in Indian adults.
Fact: By the time children in India turn 10 years old, about 95% of them test positive for hepatitis A which indicates that there is poor sanitation in the country. Hepatitis E is the most common hepatitis infection in Indian adults and the main reason for this is the consumption of street food.
Myth 3: Hepatitis is a genetic disease.
Fact: Hepatitis is not a genetic or hereditary disease. Hepatitis B may be transmitted from a mother to her child while giving birth. However, it can be avoided if the status of the virus is known and immunoglobulin (antibodies) is given 12 hours before the birth of the child.
Myth 4: All patients with Acute Viral Hepatitis (AVH) have jaundice.
Fact: Absence of jaundice does not necessarily rule out the possibility of the viral hepatitis infection. Sometimes, only symptoms such as fever, vomiting and poor appetite are visible in a person.
Myth 5: Vaccines are available against all types of hepatitis viruses.
Fact: Vaccines are only available for hepatitis A and B.
Myth 6: Getting hepatitis A makes one immune to the other types of hepatitis.
Fact: If a patient gets hepatitis A, then they are only immune to hepatitis A for a lifetime. However, he or she can still get infected with other types of hepatitis viruses.
Myth 7: Hepatitis patients should only consume boiled and bland food.
Fact: Nutrition is important for a hepatitis patient. However, unlike the common notion, these patients can be fed whatever they desire. Though, sugarcane juice, bitter gourd, radish and glucose solution are not recommended.
Myth 8: Breastfeeding is unsafe when infected with hepatitis.
Fact: Breast milk cannot spread any of the hepatitis viruses and therefore, breastfeeding during hepatitis is absolutely safe.
Myth 9: It is safe to consume alcohol once jaundice disappears in a hepatitis patient.
Fact: Alcohol should be avoided for at least 6 months after hepatitis A and E infection as the liver takes approximately six months to fully recover. However, people who develop chronic hepatitis B or C should avoid alcohol for their entire lifetime.
Myth 10: Hepatitis is a disease that cannot be treated.
Fact: Some types of hepatitis can be recovered from without intervention, but sometimes it can lead to scarring of the liver, in which case, patients have to rest and take proper medication and avoid alcohol. Doctors may prescribe antiviral agents to such patients.
It should be noted that hepatitis can be avoided by taking various precautions like washing your hands regularly and taking a vaccine. However, the prevention completely depends on the type of Hepatitis infection a person has.
This article was written by Dr Vivek Vij, Director, Liver Transplant, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla Road.
For more information, read our article on Hepatitis.
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