A lot has been written about hepatitis over the past few years. It is a virus which is easily spread and which has developed a bad name because of some of the ways in which it is spread and thus infects people; as well as causing serious damage to one’s health.
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver which begins by causing inflammation and, as it progresses on its destructive course, causes damage to, and destruction of, the cells of the liver. There are three specific and distinct viral diseases of the liver, thus they are all categorized as ‘hepatitis’ from the Greek word hepar meaning liver; and itis, which means inflammation. They are thus categorized as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
The manner in which the 3 forms of hepatitis infect humans differs from one form of the disease to another, as explained below.
- In the case of Hepatitis A, the virus is found in the excrement of an infected person, and it is transmitted from the infected person to others by way of them drinking water or eating food which has been contaminated by the infected person, who most probably did not wash his or her hands properly.
- Hepatitis B is the disease with the worst reputation, because it can be transmitted by drug addicts using dirty needles or by anyone having unprotected sex (although it is not classed as a sexually transmitted disease or STD). Even though this is the case, the majority of people who are infected with Hepatitis B contracted the disease from much more mundane sources. The most common way of becoming infected with Hepatitis B is as a baby at birth, when the infected mother passes the virus on to her baby. Other major sources of infection come from blood transfusions which are not specifically screened for Hepatitis B, or coming into direct contact with the blood of an infected person; medical, dental or tattooing equipment which is not properly sterilized; and even the sharing of personal items like toothbrushes, where traces of blood from bleeding gums may adhere.
- In the case of Hepatitis C, the way the virus spreads from human to human is almost identical to that of Hepatitis B, but the major difference is that a lot of past infections occurred from transplanted organs and blood donations which had not been specifically screened for this virus.
It should be borne in mind that many misconceptions about all 3 forms of hepatitis still abound. In order to attempt to straighten out the facts pertaining to both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, it must be clearly understood that it is impossible to become infected with these viruses simply by being in close physical contact with an infected person, such as by hugging, kissing or even simply by shaking hands. An infected person who sneezes or coughs near to you cannot infect you with these viruses. One cannot become infected with these two viruses by way of food or water; and one cannot transmit it by breastfeeding one’s baby either.