The orange link up there, "Major Info..." has a wealth of information on Hepatitis C. Here's just a sample:
Hepatitis Facts: Worldwide Snapshot
What is Hepatitis A ?
Hepatitis A is one of many hepatitis viruses causing inflammation of the liver.
Who Is At Risk?
Hepatitis A can affect anyone. In the U. S., hepatitis A can occur in situations ranging from isolated cases of disease to widespread epidemics. Hepatitis A is one of the most frequently reported vaccine-preventable diseases in the U. S. Some of the higher-risk groups are: travelers to countries with high rates of hepatitis A, men who have sex with men, injecting-drug users, people with clotting-factor disorders, people with chronic liver disease, and children living in communities with high rates of disease.
Children with hepatitis A usually have no symptoms. Adults may become quite ill suddenly, experiencing jaundice, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine/light stools, and fever. The incubation period averages 30 days. However, an infected individual can transmit the virus to others as early as two weeks before symptoms appear. Symptoms will disappear over a 6 -12-month period until complete recovery occurs.
Your doctor can't single out Hepatitis A from other types of viral hepatitis based upon your physical symptoms alone. The only way to diagnose HAV is to do a blood test seeking to find IgM antibodies. In most people, these antibodies become detectable 5-10 days before the onset of symptoms and can persist for up to 6 months after infection.
How Does it Spread?
Hepatitis A is most often spread from person to person through situations such as these:
No specific treatment is necessary for hepatitis A. Disease
Hepatitis A will clear up on its own in a few weeks or months with no serious after effects. Once recovered, an individual is then immune for life to HAV through the presence of the IgG antibody . About 1 in 100 HAV sufferers may experience a sudden and severe (i.e., "fulminant") infection.
Infection HAV infection is preventable! Here's how you do it:
Basics: Hepatitis B (HBV)
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an inflammatory liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that results in liver cell damage. This damage can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and increased risk of liver cancer in some people. About 80,000 Americans were newly infected with HBV in 1999.
Who Is At Risk?
One out of every 20 people in the U. S. will become infected with HBV sometime during their lives. Your risk is higher if you:
Many people with newly acquired hepatitis B have no symptoms at all, or they may be very mild and flu-like â€“ loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, muscle or joint aches, mild fever, and possibly jaundice (yellowish tinge to the skin). The only way to know if you are currently infected with HBV â€“ or if you still carry the virus â€“ is to ask your doctor to do a specific blood test for hepatitis B (it may not be included in a routine blood test). The test may not show positive during the incubation period (45-180 days).
There are three standard blood tests for HBV:
HBV is found in blood, seminal fluid, and vaginal secretions. The risk of transmission is increased in these situations:
There are two medications to treat chronic HBV â€“ Interferon (IFN) and Lamivudine. Less than 50% of patients with chronic HBV are candidates for interferon therapy. Initially, 40% of HBV patients who are treated with IFN will respond. However, some will relapse when the treatment is stopped. Overall, about 35% of the eligible patients will benefit. IFN treatments may have a number of side effects, including flu-like symptoms, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, and thinning hair. Interferon may lower the production of white blood cells and platelets by depressing the bone marrow. Thus, blood tests are needed to monitor blood cells, platelets, and liver enzymes. The response to oral Lamivudine, given for at least one year, may be somewhat lower. In addition, those who are chronically infected with HBV should be vaccinated against hepatitis A. There is no treatment for acute Hepatitis B.
- Either you develop immunity to HBV . . . 95% of adults infected develop antibodies and recover spontaneously within six months. Upon recovery, they develop immunity to the virus and they are not infectious to others. Blood tests will always test positive for the HBV antibody. Blood banks will not accept donations of blood from HBV-immune people.
- OR you become chronically infected. About 5% of the time, the virus clear the body within six months. If so, a person is considered a carrier â€“ or chronically infected. Chronically infected people may or may not show outward signs or symptoms. The HBV virus remains in blood and body fluids, and can infect others.
Preventing HBV Infection - Things you can do:
Here's who should be vaccinated without fail:
All newborns should get three vaccination doses of the HBV vaccine the first within 12 hours of birth, the second at 1-2 months, and the third at 6 months. In addition, babies born to infected mothers should receive a shot called H-BIG within 12 hours of delivery. Without the above intervention, 90% of babies born to infected mothers will become chronically infected, reducing their life expectancies. A few months after the last dose is given, the doctor will test to see if the baby is making HBV antibodies. If so, the baby will be safe from hepatitis B for life. HBV-infected mothers may nurse their babies.
Basics: Hepatitis C (HCV)
What Is Hepatitis C ?
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes inflammation of the liver. A national U. S. survey found that 1.8 percent of Americans â€“ about 3.9 million â€“ have been infected with HCV, of whom most about 2.7 million â€“ are chronically infected with HCV, with many showing no signs or symptoms. The good news is that, in 1995, a reliable antibody test for HCV was finally implemented nationwide. About 41,000 new cases occurred in 1998 with 15-25% recovering spontaneously. Hepatitis C is a slow-progressing disease that may take 10-40 years to cause serious liver damage in some people.
Who Is At Risk?
Since about four million Americans are infected with HCV and most don't know it, you should have a blood test for hepatitis C whether you feel sick or not. About one in ten people infected with HCV have had no identifiable exposure to HCV. That said, here are several obvious risk factors:
Most people who are infected with the HCV do not have symptoms and are leading normal lives. If symptoms are present, they may be very mild and flu-like â€“ nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, headaches, and abdominal pain. Most people do not have jaundice although jaundice can sometimes occur along with dark urine.
The incubation period varies from 2-26 weeks. Liver enzyme tests may range from being elevated to being normal for weeks to as long as a year. The virus is in the blood and may be causing liver cell damage, and the infected person can transmit the disease to others.
Test for HCV antibodies: HCV infection can be determined by a simple and specific blood test that detects antibodies against HCV. The current enzyme immunoassay test (EIA) that detects anti-HCV has a sensitivity of about 95% in chronic HCV. HCV infection may be identified by anti-HCV testing in approximately 80% of people as early as five weeks after exposure. This test is not a part of a routine physical examination, and people must ask their doctor for a hepatitis C antibody test. (Note: The antibody itself does not provide immunity, and the test does not distinguish between acute or chronic infection.) If the initial test is positive, it test should be repeated to confirm the diagnosis (and exclude possible laboratory error). If the initial test is negative, but the infection could have occurred within the last six months and HCV is suspected, antibody levels may not be high enough yet to be detectable (antibodies may not be present in the first 4 weeks of infection in about 30% of patients) or you may lack immune response. Under these circumstances, ask you doctor about repeating the test and about alternative test methods.
Test liver enzyme levels: If you may already have chronic infection, your doctor will test the levels of two liver enzymes. These are alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotrasferase (AST). Both are released when liver cells are injured or die. Elevated ALT and AST levels may appear and disappear throughout the course of the HCV infection. If the liver enzyme levels are normal with chronic HCV, they should be re-checked several times over a 6 - 12 month period. If the liver enzyme levels remain normal, your doctor may check them less frequently, such as once a year.
Between 20- 30 percent of HCV sufferers are able to become virus-free with proper treatment. Between 70 80% of the HVC infections reported each year become classified as chronic. Chronic HCV refers to infections that do not clear up within 6 months after the acute infection. Within the chronically infected group, about 20% go on to develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Of this group, 25% may develop liver failure, even though this may take 30-40 years. Cirrhosis slows the blood flow through the liver and causes increased pressure in the vein that carries blood from the stomach and the intestines to the liver. As a result, varicose veins (e.g., "varices") may develop in the stomach and esophagus. Without warning these large veins can break causing a person to vomit blood or have black, tarry stools. An estimated 8,000-10,000 deaths occur each year resulting from the complications of HCV.
Preventing HCV Infection