Infectious Hepatitis Essay – Biology Research Paper(100 Level Course)
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Inflammation usually produces swelling, tenderness, and sometimes permanent damage. Hepatitis is caused by a number of things including alcohol, drugs, chemicals, and viral infections. If the inflammation of the liver continues at least six months or longer, it is called chronic hepatitis.
Currently there are at least five different viruses known to cause viral hepatitis: Viral Hepatitis A: Sometimes called “Infectious Hepatitis.” It is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with human feces. This type of viral hepatitis is infrequently life-threatening. Viral Hepatitis B: Sometimes called “Serum Hepatitis.” It is spread from mother to child at birth or soon after, through sexual contact, contaminated blood transfusions and needles. This form of viral hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver.
Viral Hepatitis C: Formerly known as “non-A, non-B Hepatitis.” This form of viral hepatitis is the most common. It can be spread through blood transfusions and contaminated needles. However, for a substantial number of patients, the cause is unknown. This form of viral hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver. Viral Hepatitis D: This form of viral hepatitis is found most often in IV drug users who are carriers of the hepatitis B virus. It is spread only in the presence of the hepatitis B virus and is transmitted in the same way. This type of viral hepatitis occurs in people who have viral hepatitis B, and is a serious health problem. Viral Hepatitis E: This form of viral hepatitis is similar to viral hepatitis A. It is found most often in people who live in countries with poor sanitation. It is rare in North America, and rarely life-threatening.
Many cases of viral hepatitis are not diagnosed because the symptoms are vague and similar to a flu-like illness. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all. Some individuals with viral hepatitis may develop fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, muscle and joint aches, and changes in the color of urine and stools. A few of the individuals with viral hepatitis may develop jaundice. Jaundice means that the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. Itching of the skin may also occur with jaundice.
Two vaccines (Havrix, Vaqta) are now available and both are very safe and effective for preventing hepatitis A. Several inactivated virus vaccines, including Recombivax HB, GenHevac B, Hepagene, and Engerix-B, can prevent hepatitis B and are safe, even for infants and children. A triple-antigen hepatitis B vaccine (Hepacare) is proving to be effective for people who do not respond to the standard vaccines. Vaccination programs are also proving to reduce the risk for liver cancer. A combination vaccine (Twinrix) that contains Engerix-B and Havrix, a hepatitis A vaccine, is now approved for people with risk factors for both hepatitis A and B.
For mild cases of acute viral hepatitis, no drug therapy or other treatment is either available or necessary. Hospitalization is needed only for people at high risk for complications, such as pregnant women, elderly people, patients with other serious conditions, or those who have severe nausea and vomiting and need to have fluids administered intravenously. Although there are many vaccines to give out for hepatitis there is still no known cure.
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