All you need to know about Hepatitis

Nrs. Oke Ololade    

Every 28th day of July each year is World hepatitis day, just as it was recently commemorated. It is a day to create awareness to the world about this viral disease. According to World Health Organisation, hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death in the world with an estimation of about 325 million people living with it globally, while under developed countries are the most affected with the highest percentage of victims and by implication, Nigeria falls within this category.

Few years ago, I visited some friends and we were discussing, and one of them said her friend was diagnosed of hepatitis B. I recall her saying, “just hepatitis ooo.” I was amazed by that expression, so I asked her what she knows about hepatitis. Her response got me broken and very disturbed when she replied that, it is just a kind of disease. Worried about her depth of ignorance, I immediately changed the topic of discussion to hepatitis and at the end, every one of them saw the need to be tested and get vaccinated. It is amazing to see that serious health issue of such magnitude could be trivialized due to blissful ignorance.

In a chat with Nurse Hassan Hamza on hepatitis infection, Hassan gave an in depth insight on the viral disease. Excerpts



What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that is the liver is inflamed. There can be several reasons why the liver is inflamed (infected). For this reason, there are several kinds of hepatitis. The liver is the largest organ in the body, it is located in the right upper part of the abdomen. It performs many function as metabolism. Inflammation of the organ (liver) is what is regarded as hepatitis.


What are the types of hepatitis

These include, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D, and Hepatitis E.

HEPATITIS A: Is usually transmitted through consumption of food and water contaminated by faeces from a person infected with hepatitis A.

HEPATITIS B: Is transmitted through contacts from body fluids, secretion or semen of an infected person to another person.

HEPATITIS C: This type of hepatitis is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, e.g sexual contact. This hepatitis is among the most common blood borne viral infections.

HEPATITIS D: This type of hepatitis is also called Delta hepatitis. It is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis virus. It is contracted through direct contact with infected blood. Hepatitis is rare form of hepatitis that only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection. This virus cannot multiply without the presence of hepatitis B.

HEPATITIS E: Hepatitis E is a water borne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus. Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting water contaminated with faecal matter.


What are the most common types?

The most common forms are Hepatitis AHepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Based on research, hepatitis A can be spread through physical contacts, eating raw seafood, or drinking water with the hepatitis A virus in it. This happens mostly in third world countries unfortunately, Nigeria is in this category.  Strict personal hygiene and avoiding raw and unpeeled foods can help prevent an infection.


Hepatitis B is not spread by food or casual contact. Instead, hepatitis B is spread by blood or body fluids from an infected person. A baby can get it from its mother during childbirth, and it can also be spread by sexual contact, use of street drugs, and unsafe medical care. Some people just have hepatitis B for a little while and then suppress the infection. Others can be infected for life, usually with few or no symptoms for many years. Hepatitis B sometimes damages the liver severely, and can cause cancer.

There is a vaccine that can prevent hepatitis B. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but there is treatment. There are 900,000 death caused per year due to hepatitis B and 10% of people living with hepatitis B.



Hepatitis C is not spread by food or casual contact. It is spread in ways that are similar to hepatitis B. There is no vaccine, and the treatment is somewhat unpleasant. People with hepatitis C who drink alcohol greatly increase their risk for liver damage. It is recorded that about 19% of the population is living with hepatitis C.


Most cases of hepatitis are caused by a viral infection and other causes include Autoimmune disorder (such as people with compromised immune system) and also those that occur as a secondary effects of drugs and chemicals most notably paracetamol over dose, toxins and highly consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol and other toxins: Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and inflammation. This is sometimes referred to as alcoholic hepatitis. The alcohol directly injures the cells of your liver. Over time, it can cause permanent damage and lead to liver failure and Cirrhosis, a thickening and scarring of the liver.

Other toxic causes of hepatitis include overuse or overdose of medications and exposure to poisons.

Autoimmune system response: In some cases, the immune system mistakes the liver as a harmful object and begins to attack it. It causes ongoing inflammation that can range from mild to severe.


What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis?

If you have infectious forms of hepatitis that are chronic, like hepatitis B and C, you may not have symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not occur until the damage affects liver function.

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice

Chronic hepatitis develops slowly, so these signs and symptoms may be too subtle to notice.

What happens if this condition is not treated?

Chronic hepatitis can often lead to more serious health problems. Because the virus affects the liver. People with chronic hepatitis are at risk of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

When the liver stops functioning normally, liver failure can occur. Complications of liver failure include:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • A build-up of fluid in your abdomen.
  • Increased blood pressure in portal veins that enter your liver, known as portal hypertension
  • Kidney failure.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy, which can involve fatigue, memory loss, and diminished mental abilities due to the build-up of toxins, like ammonia, that affect brain function
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer
  • Death


 What are the advice to people?

First thing first, is prevention.  Prevention, they say, is better than cure. So, the first advice is to practice good hygiene. This is one key way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. If you are traveling to a developing country, you should avoid: raw or undercooked seafood, raw fruit and vegetables.

Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by: not sharing drug needles, not sharing razors, not using someone else’s toothbrush, not touching spilled blood.

Hepatitis B and C can also be contracted through sexual intercourse and intimate sexual contact. Practicing safe sex by using condoms can help reduce the risk of infection.  

Vaccines: The use of vaccines is another important method of preventing hepatitis. Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B for now.

However, if a person is already infected, the following rules should be observed to avoid further damage:


  • Say no to smoking, drugs or alcoholic drinks
  • Practice safe sex
  • Cover open cuts
  • See a physician regularly for monitoring and antiviral therapy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *