Hepatitis: Are You at Risk?

Although scientists have identified six different hepatitis viruses the strains A, B and C make up most hepatitis cases. Those who become infected with any one of the strains can experience fever, loss of appetite, headache, diarrhea, abdominal pains, nausea or jaundice – a condition where the skin and eyes turn yellow. Depending upon how much progress the disease has made in your system you could have a mild case with a bare minimum of symptoms or you could end up with severe liver damage.

Hepatitis A can be completely avoided if we take the necessary precautions. Avoid foods when you’re not sure if they’re still good and wash hands before handling any food – cooked or not. Raw or uncooked foods, foods prepared by someone who doesn’t practice good hygiene, or water infected with animal or human waste are the most common methods of contacting hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is the mildest form of the three most common strains.

Hepatitis B is the most common strain. It is transmitted through sexual contact, blood or the transfer of bodily fluids. The best way to avoid getting hepatitis B is to practice safe sex. Tattoo needles, in the past, was one of the major ways of passing along hepatitis B but new laws have made it slightly safer.

Hepatitis C is also transmitted through unsafe sex and needle-sharing. Estimates show only about a third of the people with hepatitis C know they have it. Avoid needles and practice safe sex to lower your risk for hepatitis C.

If you have symptoms of hepatitis have your doctor do a simple blood test to find out if you have the virus. People who are at high risk for the virus should be tested regularly. These include those who are addicted to intravenous drugs, those who practice unsafe sex, and those who come into direct contact with others’ blood, such as nurses or doctors.

There are treatments for hepatitis in the form of a vaccine. Many people, after starting treatment, completely recover from hepatitis. Warning signs that hepatitis is present and going untreated are urine which is very dark in color, pale bowel movements, and severe stomach cramping. Left untreated hepatitis will and does kill by causing the liver to no longer function properly.

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