One in every twelfth person in the world has viral Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, making the dismore common than cancers and AIDS, says the World Health Organisation.
Types: Hepatitis A and E spread through contaminated water and food and cause jaundice outbreaks. Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses that spread through unsafe blood transfusion, unsafe sex, use of unsterlised medical equipment, shared razors, tattooing or body piercing tools and haemodialysis in kidney-failure people.
Vaccines: Hepatitis B vaccine should be given on day one of life, as the risk of virus transmitting to a child from the mother is high. The virus can lie silent for years and suddenly become active.
Three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine costs R100 and is given every three months. Hepatitis A vaccine costs R600 and is given in two doses at the age of one and two.
Prevention: Don’t share needles. Cover open cuts or wounds. Use condoms. when getting pierced or tattooed, insist on a new needle and ink pot.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A and E (that cause seasonal outbreaks): Fever, stomach ache, appetite loss, jaundice, clay-coloured stools, dark yellow urine. Hepatitis B and C are silent viruses that do not cause symptoms till 60% of the liver is damaged. After that, the symptoms are the same.
Tests: Liver function tests and ultrasound detect the virus in the liver and deformation in the organ surface. ELISA-based blood tests are then done for confirmation.
Dr Sibal is a liver specialist and group medical director, Apollo Hospitals