There are five different types of hepatitis, labeled Hep A, B, C, D and E. Each type has slightly different symptoms, and most types can be treated successfully. Hepatitis C, however, can cause lifelong illness and extreme damage to the liver. Teachers and medical workers are at increased risk of contracting most forms of this disease through exposure to blood or bodily fluids in their work settings.
Hepatitis A is usually contracted through sharing food or water with an infected person. It may also be contracted through sexual contact or contact with body fluids, like infected blood or urine. Most people who contract this form completely recover, though the condition can make people very ill. Like all other forms of hepatitis, Hep A causes inflammation of the liver.
The treatment for Hep A is usually rest, and it may take as long as six months to fully recover. Initial symptoms are fever, aches and exhaustion, which can persist for several months. During this time, the person with hepatitis is contagious and can pass the illness to others, through the above listed means of transmission.
Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted sexually, or through contact with an infected person’s body fluids. It is a serious disease, and the virus that causes it can remain in the system for life. The virus causes the liver to become inflamed, and can result in permanent liver damage. Since a cure has not been found, most children now receive a hepatitis B vaccination that protects them from this disease.
The most serious type is hepatitis C, which causes lifelong illness and significant liver damage. This virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood. Hep C is more of an autoimmune disease, and causes increasing damage to the liver as well as gradual exhaustion. Though some people are now living with hepatitis C and doing better than initially expected, it is still a very dangerous illness. Safe sex practices and avoiding needle sharing are good ways to avoid contracting this disease.
People can only get hepatitis D if they already have Hep B. This virus can cause swelling of the liver, and it is usually contracted through unsafe sex or needle sharing. Since Hep B may have already damaged the liver, hepatitis D can, in worst case scenarios, lead to death since it can result in additional damage to the liver. The disease can be completely avoided with the HBV vaccination.
Hepatitis E is not common in developed countries. It is usually contracted by drinking water contaminated by the virus in developing nations. The disease causes liver swelling, but those who get it tend to make a complete recovery.
All forms of hepatitis are serious and can impact a person’s life. A case of Hep A, for example, might mean months of being unable to work or go to school. Hep C or Hep D can mean serious complications and damage to the liver. People can avoiding these illnesses or significantly reduce their risk of contracting them by avoiding contact with bodily fluids, abstaining or practicing safer sex and by not sharing food. When visiting poorer countries, travelers should drink bottled water and avoid sexual contact with local people.