World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis, a condition which causes inflammation of the liver. Along with this, other infections, autoimmune diseases and toxic substances such as alcohol and certain drugs can also lead to hepatitis. There are 5 main types of hepatitis viruses, referred to as A, B, C, D and E. However, the majority of people who have hepatitis are unaware of it as it doesn't often show symptoms right away. If left untreated, hepatitis can lead to serious health problems including liver scarring, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer.
Myths and misconceptions about the disease often stop from people from getting diagnosed and prevent early care.
World Hepatitis Day: Here are some of the common myths associated with the hepatitis
1. Myth: All Hepatitis viruses are equivalent.
Fact: Not all Hepatitis viruses are same. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E are different with diverse methods of transmission and clinical manifestations. While Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through food, Hepatitis B and C are spread through blood transfusion, unprotected sex and tattoos.
Hepatitis D occurs to patients suffering from Hepatitis B.
2. Myth: Women with hepatitis should abstain from breastfeeding their babies to avoid passing the infection.
Fact : Hepatitis C and B are not transmitted through breastmilk.
Although, there is risk of transmission through cracked nipples. If the nipple a cracked, some blood may escape and if the baby also has a small cut in the mouth, blood-to-bloodstream contact is possible resulting in transmission of the disease. If cracks occur in a nipple it is advised to feed from the other breast.
3. Myth : Don't eat food prepared by someone with hepatitis. It may be contaminated and you might catch it.
Fact : You may get hepatitis A and E from food prepared by someone with the disease but only if proper hygiene is not maintained. It is important, that hands are not washed properly before using the toilet and before preparing food. Hepatitis B and C are not transmitted by casual contact.
4. Myth : People suffering from hepatitis should consume only bland and boiled food.
Fact: Good nutrition is important during hepatitis. If the patient is nauseatic, whatever he/she desires to eat should be welcome. Glucose solution, sugarcane juice, bitter gourd, radish are not recommended. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, it can also be taken.
5. Myth : People who have hepatitis B or C should not have children because they will pass it on to them.
Fact : Risk of transmission from mother to baby is different for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. But having either of these conditions is no reason for not having children.
Overall, the risk of mother to baby transmission of hepatitis C during birth is very low. It is recommended to consult your doctor.
There is a risk of transmitting hepatitis B from mother to infant during the birthing process. However, most transmissions to baby can be avoided by giving baby hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) and the first shot of hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
6. Myth: One can differentiate between various types of Acute Viral Hepatitis (AVH) based on clinical symptoms.
Patients with AVH develop a short febrile illness followed by loss of appetite, high coloured urine and vomiting. Jaundice usually lasts for 2 to 3 weeks and may be associated with intense itching. The type of virus can be differentiated only by blood tests.
7. Myth: Vaccine is available against all types of Hepatitis virus.
Fact: Vaccines are available only against Hepatitis A and B.
(Dr Ansul Gupta, Consultant Gastroenterology at Nayati Medicity, Mathura)
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