Viral Hepatitis Disease : Our liver is the largest organ inside our body. It is about the size of a football and is around under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. It has many essential functions such as processes nutrients and involvement in metabolizing toxins. We should take care of our liver. Too much alcoholic beverages and drugs can cause liver damage. The infection of the liver is also possible.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of inflammation of the liver in the world. Viral hepatitis is an ongoing global health problem and a major cause of chronic liver diseases such as liver cancer. This disease has devastated the human population since ancient times.
Ancient Description of Hepatitis
The first description of hepatitis, earlier called jaundice, was found on clay tablets in Sumeria. The clay tablets said that the devil Ahhazu attacked the liver, which they thought as the home of the soul. Around 460 to 375 B.C., Hippocrates recorded an epidemic of jaundice happening on the island of Thassos. The contagious nature of jaundice was first mentioned by Pope Zacharis in the Middle Ages. The pope recommended isolation as the best approach.
Epidemic jaundice devastated armies and civilians during medieval wars. British Military hospitals in Germany documented jaundice from 1762 to 1763. Fatal cases of jaundice were observed in Bengal in 1796. Hepatitis plagued military campaigns such as the Siege of Saint-Jean-d’Acre in 1799 and Paris in 1870. Over 70,000 cases of hepatitis were recorded in the American Civil War (1861-1865). In World War 2, an estimated 16 million died due to hepatitis.
Discovery of Different Hepatitis
In 1885, Lührman published his study on hepatitis. He observed that only victims who had been vaccinated against smallpox developed hepatitis. He concluded that the source of infection was probably human lymph administered with a smallpox vaccine. The incubation period was one to seven months.
In 1943, the British Ministry of Health described an outbreak of jaundice involving soldiers. The outbreak occurred in patients who received medical injections. The incidence rate of hepatitis in clinics that did not sterilize used needles ranged from 30 to 60% whereas no jaundice patients recorded on clinics that sterilized their apparatus.
In 1973, Feinstone identified spherical nanometer particles in stool obtained from hepatitis patients. The particle was specific in the acute stage of the disease and every hepatitis patient tested demonstrated a serological to the antigen suggesting it is the etiological agent of hepatitis.
Two distinctive clinical forms of hepatitis were recognized. One form called “infectious hepatitis” had a short incubation period and transmitted by the oral-fecal route that usually occurs in epidemics. The other form called “serum hepatitis” had a longer incubation period and was transmitted by injections or blood transfusion. MacCallum suggested the names of hepatitis A (infectious hepatitis) and hepatitis B (serum hepatitis).
In 1974, soon after the discovery of hepatitis A, both the Purcell and Finestone groups at the NIH and Prince at the New York Blood center noted that most of the serum hepatitis were negative for hepatitis B virus. It was after 15 years before scientists were able to identify the hepatitis C virus.
Further research and breakthroughs led to further differentiation of “infectious hepatitis” and “serum hepatitis”. Five viruses were discovered that can cause hepatitis, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
Acute and Chronic Symptoms
Scientists have discovered at least five viruses that cause hepatitis. The three most common are hepatitis A, B, and C. Each type has different characteristics but the symptoms tend to be similar.
People with hepatitis experience either mild or no symptoms at all. The incubation period varies depending on the type of virus. For those who develop symptoms, initial or acute hepatitis infection symptoms include mild flu, fatigue or burnout, pale stools, fever, yellowing of the eyes or jaundice, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
In chronic or long-term hepatitis, the virus lives and multiplies in the liver for years leading to complications such as liver scarring, liver failure, or liver cancer. Optical neuritis can also occur which will lead to vision problems and perhaps even psychological trauma. Symptoms can take decades to develop. Symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, swelling of lower extremities, blood in urine or feces, and itchy skins. The best way to fight these is early intervention. You can check your liver through a CT scan.
Hepatitis A is usually present in feces of infected persons and is transmitted person-to-person by the fecal-oral route or through the consumption of contaminated food and water. It is acute hepatitis. Symptoms usually resolve within 2 months with supportive treatment. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids such as blood or semen. It can also be transmitted from infected mother to infant. Hepatitis B can be an acute or chronic illness. 15% to 25% of chronically infected people develop liver diseases such as liver cancer. Some patients are treated with antiviral drugs. Vaccines are available.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that spreads when blood from an infected person enters another person. Mother can also transmit the infection to the infant during birth. More than 50% of people develop chronic infection. It is the leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer. There is still no vaccine available. Several medications are available to treat the chronic infection.
Hepatitis D is an incomplete virus that only occurs in people infected by the hepatitis B virus. It can be an acute or chronic illness. Hepatitis D is transmitted through the puncture in the skin or mucosal contact with infected body fluids. There is still no vaccine but can be prevented by the hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis E is mostly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food. It is common in developing countries with poor sanitation. People infected usually recover without any complications. No vaccine is available yet.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), viral hepatitis is one of the most common infections and global health problems, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Worldwide, over 600 million individuals are chronically or acutely infected with viral hepatitis.
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