According to data from the World Health Organization every year they die from causes linked to viral hepatitis more than a million people around the world. In America, the figure rises to 23 thousand deaths from Hepatitis B and 84 thousand from Hepatitis C. It is estimated that each year there are 10,000 new infections in the region and that the number of infected in the world around 300 million people.
Faced with these alarming figures, the WHO emphasizes the “urgent need to act to eliminate this disease as a threat to public health by 2030.” The first key to dealing with it is information. Dr. Alejandra Mabel Camino, Master in Molecular Biology, Diabetologist at DIM Health Centers explains that “hepatitis is a term that defines an inflammatory state of the liver. This occurs in response to a mechanism of damage to liver cells and their surrounding tissues. He or the agents that produce liver damage that lead to inflammation can be toxic (alcohol, drugs, solvents, etc.), viral infections, infections by other agents and immunological diseases “.
exist five types of hepatitis These are identified with letters: A, B, C, D and E. Although they all cause liver disease, each one impacts in a particular way.
Hepatitis A: transmitted through contaminated food or water
Like hepatitis E, “it is transmitted by consumption of contaminated food or water. It usually causes a mild infection, with a full recovery after a few weeks. Most infected people can experience a wide range of symptoms (two to seven weeks after being infected): fever, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes); dark urine and fatigue “, develops Dr. Camino. The good news is that this virus can be prevented with a vaccine that, since 2005, has been part of the national vaccination calendar.
Hepatitis B: with a low rate of infections in the country
“It is transmitted when the blood, saliva, semen or other body fluids of an infected person, even in microscopic amounts, enters the body of an uninfected person,” explains the specialist, adding: “This type of virus can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, although if caught early, it can be treated and prevent the disease from progressing. ” There is also a vaccine that prevents this disease. It has been part of the national vaccination calendar for almost 30 years (it was included in 1992) and thanks to this strategy the rate of infections in Argentina decreased significantly.
Hepatitis C: no vaccine, but with effective treatment
It is spread in the same way as variant B and usually leads to acute and chronic pictures. “We do not have vaccine for this virus and it is usual for it to remain in our body since it tends to escape and circumvent our immune system “, Camino details and adds:” Current hepatitis C treatments achieve a successful eradication of the virus that allows cure rates between a 90 to 100% with shorter treatments and fewer adverse effects. As a result, the consequences of its chronic course (cirrhosis, liver cancer and transplantation) are greatly diminished. “
Hepatitis D: occasional, but potentially dangerous
“It is transmitted mainly through the bloodstream, through syringes used by infected people or by sharing personal hygiene items,” says the doctor. In addition, he explains that this type can only affect people infected with hepatitis B, since otherwise the variant of the virus cannot survive in the body. The simultaneity of both viruses can lead to serious pictures.
Hepatitis E: even without vaccine or treatment
Although it is transmitted the same as hepatitis A, it does not have a vaccine. Its prevention involves taking extreme hygiene measures and avoiding the consumption of contaminated food and beverages. It also does not cause chronic disease.
The virus attacks the liver
“Hepatitis affects the liver, forming acute diseases and chronic diseases. In the case that they lead to an acute disease, if the damage is extensive, they can severely affect liver function and put us at risk of life “, says Camino while developing the functions of this organ:” The liver performs various functions vital, such as detoxification and synthesis of fundamental proteins, among others. Viruses can also give rise to chronic inflammatory processes, which lead to permanent damage and repair, as long as the viral agent cannot be eradicated from our body. This circumstance leads to the development of progressive scarring called liver fibrosis, with various progressive degrees, up to cirrhosis ”.
Liver disease could increase the risk of developing liver cancer. “A very important concept regarding liver fibrosis, even in the compensated cirrhosis stage, is to note that it can be a reversible situation. That is, it can go back to less advanced stages with recovery of its functionality; as long as it is possible to eliminate the virus with antiviral drugs and the action of our own immune system “, clarifies the doctor.
More and more, specialists recommend periodic tests to detect this disease early in order to start the appropriate treatment as soon as possible to minimize the risk and improve the results. In fact, according to information from the Pan American Health Organization, only 18% of hepatitis B cases are diagnosed and 200% of those with hepatitis C. Among those diagnosed, only a minority access treatment.