What is Hepatitis?

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. This is in honor of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the existence of the Hepatitis B virus in 1967. In 1969, he developed a vaccine for it and won a Nobel Prize for these accomplishments. 

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, commonly caused by a virus. Although it can also be caused by certain toxins, alcoholism, medications, or a medical condition.  According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, there are five types of viral hepatitis, although the most common ones are A, B, and C.

Hepatitis A

The most common way of contracting Hepatitis A is through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Periodically there are news stories warning people who have eaten at a certain restaurant or fast food place within the last few days to get tested for Hepatitis A because it was discovered that someone in the kitchen had the virus. Symptoms of Hepatitis A include:

  • Yellow tint to the skin (jaundice)
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Stomach issues – stomach ache, nausea, loss of appetite

Children under 6 can be infected and be asymptomatic and highly contagious. The symptoms are usually mild for older children and adults and usually go away in a couple of months. However, they can return periodically for about 6 months.

There are no specific medicines or treatments for Hepatitis A, but symptoms can be treated. The best prevention is a Hepatitis A vaccine, especially if you will be traveling to countries where the virus is prevalent. 

If you suspect you may be infected with the Hepatitis A virus, you can drop by IPE Screening to get a blood test done to confirm.

Hepatitis B

This strain is much worse. Hepatitis B is acquired by contact with contaminated blood or other bodily fluids. It has an acute phase that can become chronic. 95% of adults will recover completely from an acute infection and it never progresses to the chronic stage.

Approximately 90% of infected babies (born to infected mothers) and 50% of children under the age of 5 will progress to the chronic stage and be a life-long problem.

Like with Hepatitis A, children are highly contagious even if they exhibit no symptoms.   

Most cases of Hepatitis B are caused by sex with infected partners, IV drug use (sharing needles and syringes), and accidental jabs with infected needles (a common hazard for medical professionals). Symptoms of Hepatitis B include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach issues – nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite
  • Clay-colored stools and dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

Chronic cases of Hepatitis B will need to be monitored throughout their life to check on the liver function and potential development of cirrhosis or cancer.

The best prevention for Hepatitis B is to be vaccinated. If you may have been exposed to Hepatitis B and would like confirmation, IPE Screening has a blood test to detect Hepatitis B.

We also have tests to monitor liver function if you are one of the unfortunate individuals with a chronic infection.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infection transmitted through the blood that becomes a long-term illness in about 80% of the people who contract it. Unlike the A and B versions, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

The best way to protect yourself from this disease that can lead to death is to avoid the risky behaviors that can lead to being infected. Most notably, IV drug use.

A lot of people do not experience any symptoms (they are the same as Hepatitis B), so do not realize they are infected until it has progressed to cancer or another serious liver disease. This makes screening and testing important.

If you know you have been around someone with Hepatitis C and think you may have been exposed (accidental needle stick or other exposure to tainted blood), IPE Screening has a blood test to screen for the Hepatitis C virus.

While there is no vaccine, there are effective treatments available if you do contract the virus.

IPE Screening has blood tests to screen for Hepatitis A, B, and C. We also have tests that will monitor liver health and function. We have recently become associated with Quest Diagnostics and now accept most major insurances.

We do not require an appointment and welcome walk-ins. Knowledge is power. Hepatitis viruses fly under the radar and can do a lot of damage if left unchecked. Stop by today and be tested.