Hepatitis – Are You At Risk?

The liver is a complex body component that holds approximately 13% of a person’s blood supply at any point in time and performs an estimated 500 functions. Despite its importance to our every day survival, not many people pay much attention to it. This is rather alarming because we will only ever have one liver to last us for life.

The liver works round the clock and is involved with four basic but important functions such as:

  • regulating, synthesizing and secreting glucose, proteins, bile and lipids
  • storing glucose, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), vitamins B6 and B12 and minerals (copper and iron)
  • purifying, transforming and clearing the blood of harmful substances
  • fighting infections, particularly that arising from the bowel

Liver disease causes damage to the liver. Consequently, the liver’s function are disrupted and can result in serious health problems. Hepatitis infection is among the many liver diseases that are known to exist.

Hepatitis A infection is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease is highly contagious and can lead to death, with case-fatality rates of 0.3% – 0.6% as reported through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, and 1.8% in persons above 50 years of age.

The Hepatitis A virus is commonly found in the stool of an infected person and is spread through the fecal-oral or via contaminated food and water. Simple every day activities pose as a serious threat for infection because contamination can occur through household or sexual contact with a person who is infected, children and employees in a day care centers, as well as those who travel abroad.

Unlike its counterpart, hepatitis B infection is caused by the highly infectious hepatitis B virus (HBV) and can result in lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and even death.

Although the disease is preventable, approximately one million people die from hepatitis B infection every year worldwide. Every minute, one or two chronic hepatitis B deaths are recorded in the Western Pacific and South East Asian regions.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. Most commonly a person is infected with HBV through perinatal transmission, child to child transmission, unsafe injections and transfusions, as well as sexual contact.

Both hepatitis A and B present fli like symptoms which are more apparent in adults than children. For hepatitis B however, the symptoms do not always present itself and the danger lies in the fact that some people may not even realize that they are carrying the disease.

Because hepatitis A and B can lead to devastating outcomes, it is important that the disease is detected at an early stage.

Fortunately, hepatitis A and B can be detected via a simple blood test. While certain measures can be taken to prevent hepatitis A and B infection, vaccination offers one of the best protection against the disease.

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