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Disease Focus: Hepatitis












Hepatitis A – a Brief

By Nicole Kraatz

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease that causes liver infection. The disease is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is highly contagious. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) was first discovered in 1973 by Steven M. Feinstone and was considered an unidentified viral disease before the discovery. Currently, there are about 1.4 million HAV cases reported annually. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A is generally not fatal and does not cause chronic liver disease.

Hepatitis A is transmitted via the oral-fecal route. Patients normally infected by hepatitis A get it from contaminated food or water, coming in contact with the stool of someone infected, or taking part in oral to anal sexual activity. Because of the mode of transmission for hepatitis A, those most vulnerable to the disease include citizens with poor sanitation and sewage systems.  Other risk factors include intravenous drug use, living in nursing homes, and travel to places with poor sanitation.

The incubation period for the hepatitis A virus ranges from 2 to 6 weeks from the initial infection of the virus. Often times the symptoms are mild, however they may last up to several months for adults. There are many different types of symptoms, some of which include fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dark urine and jaundice. However, not all cases of hepatitis A involve symptoms. Patients have been asymptomatic although they test positive for the virus. There is no specific treatment for the virus, but preventative measures include getting the HAV vaccine as well as good hygiene and proper sanitation.

Hepatitis B

By Jason Zheng

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The vaccine for hepatitis B has been available since 1982 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The virus can be spread by percutaneous or mucosal exposure to infected blood and various body fluids, as well as through saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. Hepatitis B can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine. The incubation period of the virus is 75 days on average, but can vary from 30 to 180 days.

The symptoms that are experienced by an individual can range from days to several weeks. During the acute infection phase, people may experience yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains.

It is estimated that 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and more than 780,000 people die every year due to complication of hepatitis B, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. The virus is considered as an occupation hazard for health workers. However, hepatitis B is only prevented with safe vaccines that are made to general public. 

There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B, therefore it is necessary to maintain a proper nutritional balance and regularly replenish fluids lost to combat the virus. It is recommended for patients to seek oral treatment methods—either tenofovir or entecavir—these are the most potent drugs to suppress the virus.

As of 2013, 183 members of the World Heath Organization have vaccinated infants against hepatitis B. As well, 93 member states have introduced the vaccine to infants at birth. This is a major increase compared to 1992, which only 31 countries approved the global resolution of administering hepatitis B vaccine.


  • promote the use of simple, non-invasive diagnostic tests to assess the stage of liver disease and eligibility for treatment;
  • prioritize treatment for those with most advanced liver disease and at greatest risk of mortality; and
  • recommend the preferred use of the nucleos(t)ide analogues with a high barrier to drug resistance (tenofovir and entecavir, and entecavir in children aged 2–11 years) for first- and second-line treatment.

These guidelines also recommend lifelong treatment in those with cirrhosis; and regular monitoring for disease progression, toxicity of drugs and early detection of liver cancer.





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