What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral Hepatitis is an infection that infects the liver when it is introduced to the body. There are 5 strains of the virus, but we will only go over the most common strains in the United States; Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. You can be protected from some strains of Hepatitis starting at a young age as there are preventable vaccines. All strains of Hepatitis are contagious and can be spread through close, personal contact with an infected person. Be sure to get tested, especially if you have multiple sexual partners.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hep A is caused when a person accidentally ingests food or water contaminated with the virus or through close contact with an infected person. The infection is preventable with a vaccine, so the majority of the population is immune to it. It is curable, most infected people won’t be sick with the virus for very long. Minimal to no damage will be caused to your liver if you seek treatment quickly.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is the 2nd most common form of Hepatitis in the U.S. and is also preventable with a vaccine. Hep B is caused by the virus entering the body through the sharing of bodily fluids, so sexual contact or sharing needles and syringes makes you susceptible to contracting it. Having safe sex and using protection is helpful in preventing the disease.
Hepatitis B is curable, most people’s bodies can fight off the virus on their own after a short-term illness. Still, for others (especially if you have a compromised immune system), the infection can lead to chronic and sometimes life-threatening illnesses or even cancer. If you are high-risk when it comes to disease, it’s essential to get tested and treatment to help your body fight it off. There is also a chance of not having symptoms when you are infected, so get a test, especially if you’re pregnant. Mothers can infect their babies at birth if they do not get treatment.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is the most common form of Hepatitis in the U.S., and there is no vaccine for it. Hep C is also caused by the virus entering the body through sexual contact and needle sharing. If you share or reuse needles, take great care in cleaning them after each person uses them. Hepatitis C is curable and if you contract it there is a good chance you won’t be sick for very long if you get treatment. However, the virus can lead to chronic and severe liver infection if not treated. Some people may not know they’re infected until they have advanced liver disease, so again, get tested if you think you may be at risk.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
- Fatigue or flu-like symptoms
- Dark urine or pale stool
- Stomach/abdomen pain
- Loss of appetite/unexplained weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Hepatitis A & B usually don’t require treatment, just time for the body to fight off the virus. If you are immunocompromised or pregnant, you should seek additional treatment to fight off the virus or to make sure it’s not passed along to your baby.
Hepatitis C can be a severe disease, even for those with a strong immune system. But, after a regimen of antiviral drugs, you can be cured quickly with minimal side effects.
All Prism Health North Texas locations offer STI testing AND treatment for little to no cost. See STI Testing and Treatment in the Services drop-down menu for more information!