Well, the answer is simple, short, and crisp – YES, you do, because in case of Hepatitis Prevention is always better than Cure.
Globally, nearly 4.5 million people are living with Hepatitis – a number big enough to understand the severity of the disease and the significance of Hepatitis vaccine. What’s more scary is that most of these people don’t know that they carry the infection, and a million of them die every year of this chronic infection despite the fact that it is preventable and completely treatable.
While most of us are aware of this dreaded infection, rarely do we think of ourselves being at risk. How much ever we ignore, but the fact is – we all are at a risk of getting this infection – from physical injury, viruses, adverse drug reaction, or even bacterial infection. The only way to prevent the disease is by protecting ourselves through vaccination.
But before we get into the details of Hepatitis vaccination, let’s take a look at the ABC of Hepatitis.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a chronic inflammation of the liver caused by viral infection. There are three most common types of hepatitis: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C (the other types are D and E). While each of these viruses is different, they produce similar symptoms and cause similar “acute” infection. However, Hepatitis B and C viruses cause chronic infection that, if untreated, may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death.
Symptoms of Viral Hepatitis
The most common symptoms of Hepatitis include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Fever and fatigue
- Joint pain
- Intense itching
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes
What Causes Hepatitis?
Hepatitis A is a chronic and contagious viral infection that spreads through contaminated food, water, or even from close contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A is usually mild and your body’s immune system can easily fight off the infection.
Hepatitis B is the most severe and common liver infection in the world, with more than 2 billion people living with the infection. In fact, Hepatitis B is a “silent epidemic” because most people do not know they have the infection and keep on silently spreading the disease to others. Hepatitis B infection can become chronic and can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. The virus can spread from one person to other through blood, semen, or body fluids. This usually occurs when:
- You share toothbrush or razor with the infected person
- You use unsterilized needles for tattoos, illegal drugs or taking steroids
- You have unprotected sexual intercourse
- Hepatitis B infected mother breastfeeds her baby
- A social worker gets pricked by a sharp, infected object
- An infected person bites someone
Hepatitis C also spreads through contact with an infected person and leads to liver enlargement, damage of liver, cirrhosis of liver and liver cancer.
Who’s at risk of Hepatitis infection?
Anyone and everyone; new born babies too are no exception. Testing is the only way to know if you are Hepatitis virus infected. However, people at potential risk include:
- People who have not been vaccinated for Hepatitis virus
- People who have sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- People who share needles to inject drugs
- People who live with partner suffering from Hepatitis
- People who come in contact with Hepatitis infected people
- People who regularly travel to countries with high prevalence of Hepatitis
- People with end-stage kidney disease
- People with chronic liver disease
- People with HIV infections
How to stay protected?
Timely vaccination is the best and the easiest way to prevent the disease.
Hepatitis A vaccine (HAV): It is given in two doses, given 6 months apart.
Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV): The schedule for Hepatitis B vaccine varies from infants to adults:
- For infants and children, the vaccine is administered in 3-4 doses (shots) given over a period of 6-18 months, depending on the type of vaccine.
- For adults, the vaccine is given twice over a 6 months period.
Are you suffering from Hepatitis?
Yes? No? Well, the answer is – You don’t know. A quick and simple blood test is the only way to know if you are carrying the infection. It is also the only way to stop the virus from triggering cirrhosis of liver and/or cancer.
So, if you have never got yourself tested for Hepatitis A, B or C, the time is NOW! This Hepatitis Awareness Month, schedule an appointment with your EPIC Health Physician and get yourself thoroughly checked for viral Hepatitis. With some simple blood tests, ultrasounds and liver function tests, your EPIC Physician will be able to tell you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis virus or are having any type of chronic liver disease.
We also provide prompt vaccination service to help you stay protected from Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Available on all 7 days of the week, we are committed to providing outstanding healthcare support to all our patients. At EPIC, we work for extended hours and accept same day appointments and walk-ins too.