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Hepatitis: Protect yourself from infection


            There are enough health dragons out there that may be beyond your control. You need to be alert, aware and proactive about those things that you can do something about your health. Today we’re going to talk about hepatitis, particularly Hepatitis A.

            “We are seeing an increase of Hepatitis A, as reported by the health departments,” said Eloise V. Traina, executive director of Family Recovery Center.

            Hepatitis A is a very contagious infection of the liver. It may be mild, lasting just several weeks, or more severe, lasting much longer. The liver, explains the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged its function is affected.” Some people need to be hospitalized, but rest, good nutrition, fluid intake and medical monitoring often works. Most people usually recover with no lasting damage to their livers, but sometimes there is liver failure and death.

            This infection is spread by not washing your hands properly after using the restroom or changing a diaper, having sex with someone who is infected with Hepatitis A, or eating or drinking foods contaminated with Hepatitis A. It also is spread through illegal drug use and close contact with someone infected with the disease. It may also be caused by heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions.

            Symptoms include jaundice, fever, nausea or throwing up, dark urine, pale feces, stomach pain, feeling tired and loss of appetite.

            Those who are at high risk of this infection include men who have sex with men, people who use illegal drugs, people currently homeless or in transient living, people recently in jail or prison, and people with underlying liver disease, those who travel to or live in countries where hepatitis is common, those with clotting-factor disorders like hemophilia and household members or caregivers of a person infected with Hepatitis A.

            Hepatitis A can be prevented with vaccination which is recommended for all children and people with certain risk factors and medical conditions, travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common and users of recreation drugs, injected or not.

            Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen or another body fluid from an infected person enters the body of someone else who does not have the infection. This may be through sexual contact, sharing needles, syringes or other equipment used for injection of drugs. It also can pass from a mother to her baby at birth.  It is reported that 90 percent of infected infants become chronically infected while 2 percent to 6 percent of adults become chronic. Hepatitis B can cause some serious health issues like cirrhosis or liver cancer. A vaccine is available.

            The CDC also advises about Hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus contracted through sharing needles and other drug injection objects. About 70 percent to 85 percent of people who become infected with Hepatitis C suffer long-term chronic infection, the report said. It is a serious condition that can result in death. There may be no symptoms so the person may not even know they have it. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The only way to prevent it is to avoid doing those things that spread the disease, in particular, injecting drugs.

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