In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the date of July 28 as World Day to Fight Viral Hepatitis. Since then, the month of July has been gaining prominence on the subject, and in 2018 the Brazilian Senate approved the creation of the Yellow July, a campaign that aims to reinforce initiatives to combat viral hepatitis.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation in the liver that can be acute or chronic and can be caused by several viruses or by the use of some drugs, alcohol, and other toxic substances. Because they are transmitted by viruses, hepatitis can progress to chronic diseases that cause more serious damage, even causing cirrhosis or cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Most of the viral hepatitis are silent and do not always show symptoms, however, when presented they are usually:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomit
  • Tiredness
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Whiter excrements
  • Dark urine

It is worth mentioning that the symptoms may vary according to the type of hepatitis.

What are the types and causes of viral hepatitis?

Each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus, classified in A, B, C, D, and E, and its causes vary according to the type, with the most common in Brazil being hepatitis A, B, and C.

Let's see below a little more about the characteristics of each of them.

Hepatitis A

Also known as "infectious hepatitis", hepatitis A is a contagious disease caused by the transmission of the HAV virus. Its transmission is fecal-oral and can occur through contact between individuals, contaminated food or water, being strongly linked to basic sanitation and hygiene conditions.

Hepatitis A is curable, and since 2014 its vaccine has been included in the SUS vaccination calendar for children. The vaccine is recommended for children, adolescents, and non-immune adults, and should be applied after 12 months of age with another dose after 6 months.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B also called homologous serum, is an infectious disease caused by the HBV virus, transmitted mainly through body fluids such as blood, semen, and breast milk.

It can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding, through sexual intercourse without using condoms, transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing personal objects such as nail clippers, razors, toothbrushes, syringes, and unsterile needles, among others, as well as in the use of non-disposable materials in tattoo and body piercing studios.

Vaccination against hepatitis B is indicated for people of all age groups and should be applied, preferably, in the first 24 hours after birth, thus preventing chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C, also called “Hepatitis no A no B” (NANB), is caused by the HCV virus and is transmitted mainly by contaminated blood. Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, during sexual contact, and through objects and materials mentioned above.

Unfortunately, there is still no vaccine against this disease, however, hepatitis C is one of the few chronic diseases that can be cured.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D, also called Delta, is caused by the HDV virus and has characteristics similar to hepatitis B and C in terms of the means of transmission. However, this virus depends on the B virus to be able to infect a person, so even though there is still no vaccine against hepatitis D, the vaccine against hepatitis B protects against the Delta virus.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is caused by the HEV virus, and like hepatitis A, it is strongly linked to the lack of basic sanitation and personal hygiene. In Brazil, the disease is considered rare, with a higher rate in Africa and Asia. There is still no vaccine against hepatitis E, so the best way to prevent it is to maintain good hygiene and avoid the consumption of food of doubtful origin.

Diagnosis and treatment

When presenting symptoms such as those described here, it is recommended to see a doctor and obtain the diagnosis then define the necessary follow-up and treatment to avoid complications.

The diagnosis of hepatitis is made by identifying the symptoms, where through exams the cause of hepatitis will be analyzed.

Hepatitis A is an acute disease, and treatment is based on diet and rest. Hepatitis C is curable in more than 90% of cases when treatment is followed correctly. Hepatitis B and D are treated and can be controlled, preventing the progression to cirrhosis and cancer.