Hepatitis is a symptomatic infection that affects the liver. The most common types of Hepatitis virus are A, B, C, D and E. The history of hepatitis dates back to ancient times and the success of modern medicine have improved the prevention and treatment of most types of Hepatitis. The high risk groups include injectible drug users, hemodialysis patients, and those who have sexual contact with infected people. Hepatitis B and C are the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver cancer in the United States.
History of Hepatitis is believed to go back as far as the ancient times. With today’s modern medicine scientists have discovered a major breakthrough in 1963 that identified a serum hepatitis known as Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). Ten years later, they found the cause of hepatitis infection and called it Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). In 1989, Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) was discovered. Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) was known in the 1970’s, but was better understood by scientists in the 1980-1990’s. Later the Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) was discovered in 1990.
Hepatitis A (HAV) the least serious form and may develop as an isolated case of an epidemic. It is estimated that one out of every 3 people has been affected by HAV. Transmission of HAV is associated with close personal contact or contaminated food or water (Wilson, p. 13). Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted primarily by contact with infected blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. Injectable drug users, people with multiple sexual partners and homosexuals are at higher risk for contracting the B virus. Hepatitis B can severely damage a person’s liver, resulting in cancer (Nordqvist, 2009).
Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most serious blood borne infection in the United States. The disease is often passed between drug users who share needles. People who are on dialysis and sexual contact are also at risk. The hepatitis virus is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants (Wilson, 2005). Hepatitis D (HDV) is a defective virus that only if the people who are infected with Hepatitis B. The virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood, unprotected sex, and piercing of the skin with infected needles.
The effects of HDV are more serious and progresses to chronic liver disease more frequently than virus A, B, or C. Hepatitis E (HEV) is the leading cause of epidemics around the world, but cases in the United States are rare. Primarily HEV is spread by fecal contaminated drinking water and there is no evidence that HEV progresses to chronic liver disease (Wilson, 2005). There have been no cases of HEV reported in the United States. Patients with Hepatitis A and B typically experience sudden unset of fever, malaise and fatigue, nausea and abdominal pain. Anorexia and jaundice may also be present.
Hepatitis C is less forgiving as symptoms may not appear until the patient’s condition has progressed to cirrhosis or cancer (Neighbors & Tannehill-Jones, 2006). Populations affected by Hepatitis In the United States approximately 1. 2 million are living with Hepatitis B and 3. 2 are living with Hepatitis C. Estimated 25,000 people become infected with Hepatitis A. Many people do not know the virus infection exist in the body (CDC, 2009). The Center for Disease Control (2009) estimates 180 million people over the world is infected with HCV, of which four million are identified as cases in the United States.
Each year 26,000 cases of HCV are diagnosed in the United States alone, and 10,000 to 12,000 deaths are contributed to HVC (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2009, p. 1). The hepatitis virus is the leading cause of liver cancer and the reason for liver transplants. In the United States approximately 1. 2 million are living with Hepatitis B and 3. 2 are living with Hepatitis C. Estimated 25,000 people become infected with Hepatitis A. Many people do not know the virus infection exist in the body (CDC, 2009).
In July of 1982 the Hepatitis B vaccine was approved for use and thirteen years later (1995) the HAV vaccine was approved for use. These significant scientific breakthroughs have led a steady decline in the number of HAV and HBV cases in the United States. There is not a vaccine available for HCV but scientists are working hard to develop one. In addition to the vaccines some treatment options are available. HAV usually resolves itself and no specific treatment is needed. Treatment for HBV is Interferon which slows the progress of the disease in about 40% of patients (Neighbors & Tannehill-Jones, 2006).
In addition to treating HBV Interferon is very effective for treating HCV. This antiviral slows the disease process about 30% of the time (Neighbors & Tannehill-Jones, 2006). There is not an effective treatment for HDV or HEV. Treatment for end stage cirrhosis or cancer caused by hepatitis may result in a liver transplant. Conclusion Hepatitis is a disease that causes an inflammation of the liver. There are several viruses that cause cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Hepatitis A is a mild disease that typically resolves itself.
The hepatitis B virus is more severe than A and less severe than C. The availability of vaccines for Hepatitis A and B has decreased the number of cases while Hepatitis C continues to infect high risk populations. Scientists continue to strive for a cure for Hepatitis C but in the meantime a people need to be aware of the disease and take steps the reduce the possibility of exposure.
- Centers for Disease Control. (2009). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Retrieved from http://www. cdc. gov/mmwr/PDF/ss/ss5803. pdf
- Neighbors, M. & Tannehill-Jones, R. (2006). Viral diseases acquired through alimentary and other routes. In Human diseases (pp. 201-203). Retrieved from https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/eReader. aspx
- Nordqvist, C. (2009, April). What is Hepatitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. Medical News Today, (), Retrieved April 13, 2010 from http://www. medicalnewstoday. com/articles/145869. php
- Wilson, T. (2005). The ABCs of hepatitis. The Nurse Practitioner, 30(6), 12-18. Retrieved from Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.