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What is the Difference Between Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B?
Posted: Aug 28th, 2019 at 12:00AM
You've undoubtedly heard hepatitis A and B mentioned many times before. Whether it was by watching the news, reading a headline, or overhearing a coworker say they had it in the past, it's an unavoidable topic. But you may not really know what hepatitis A and B are, how dangerous they can be, who's most at risk, or how you can protect yourself. Let's look at the specifics so you have the facts (and the knowledge) to help keep yourself healthy year-round.
Hepatitis A (HAV) is a communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. (If you aren't sure — a communicable disease is a contagious disease).
Hepatitis A is highly contagious — but the good news is that it's also preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccination as the best defense against acquiring hepatitis A.
Once infected, HAV can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months. In the worst cases, symptoms may continue for up to six months. While dangerous, there is no threat of hepatitis A turning into a chronic disease.
Symptoms often occur abruptly and may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Clay-colored stools
- Joint pain
Hepatitis A is a danger to your liver because it causes it to swell, which means inflammation and damage can occur. As the American Liver Foundation warns: "HAV may cause some patients to suffer liver failure. In the United States, there are about 100 deaths a year due to HAV."
- Children- beginning at age 1.
- Travelers to countries with high or intermediate endemicity of HAV infection
- This includes all developing countries.
- Users of injection and non-injection drugs.
- People with clotting-factor disorders.
- Men who have sex with men.
- Anyone who has had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
- Those who work with nonhuman primates.
- People who anticipate a close personal contact with an international adoptee from a hepatitis A endemic country
- This includes all persons 6 months of age and older
- People with chronic liver disease.
- All homeless people 1 and older.
Now let's look at how HAV is spread.
You can become infected with hepatitis A if you ingest even a microscopic amount of fecal matter from someone afflicted with the disease.
This can happen if someone who has the disease does not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom or touches objects or food, if a caregiver of a person with HAV doesn't wash their hands properly after changing the diapers of an infected person, or a person who engages in sexual activity with an afflicted person.
As the CDC recommends, the best way to avoid contracting hepatitis A is through vaccination. Visit your local vaccination center today to stay protected from this destructive disease.
Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B (HBV) is a communicable liver infection (which is caused by the hepatitis B virus).
However, the main difference between the two is that HBV can become a chronic, long-term illness for some, causing serious health issues like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The CDC advises that the best way to avoid contracting hepatitis B is through vaccination.
If afflicted with hepatitis B, whether you experience symptoms or not may depend on your age.
The CDC notes, "Most children under age 5 years and newly infected immunosuppressed adults are generally asymptomatic, whereas 30%-50% of persons aged 5 years have signs and symptoms."
Symptoms of acute hepatitis B infections may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
Some people who get acute hepatitis B will find that their symptoms resolve themselves over a period that ranges from two weeks to six months.
Those with chronic hepatitis B usually don't experience symptoms and may develop cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer).
HBV is a serious — and deadly — disease. As the CDC states:
Approximately 25% of those who become chronically infected during childhood and 15% of those who become chronically infected after childhood die prematurely from cirrhosis or liver cancer, and the majority remain asymptomatic until onset of cirrhosis or end-stage liver disease.
Sadly, about 3,000 people die each year in the United States (and more than 600,000 people worldwide) from hepatitis B-related liver disease, the CDC reports.
Transmission of hepatitis B is possible through activities that involve the puncture of the skin or mucosal contact with infectious blood or body fluids.
According to the CDC, this includes:
- Sex with an infected partner.
- Injection drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment.
- Birth to an infected mother.
- Contact with blood or open sores of an infected person.
- Needle sticks or sharp instrument exposures.
- Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B cannot be spread through food, water, or shared objects.
According to Healthline, those most at risk for contracting hepatitis B include:
- Healthcare workers.
- Men who have sex with other men.
- People who use IV drugs.
- People with multiple sex partners.
- People with chronic liver disease.
- People with kidney disease.
- People over the age of 60 with diabetes.
- Those traveling to countries with a high incidence of HBV infection.
As you can see, both hepatitis A and hepatitis B are serious diseases that can cause long-term issues of the liver — and sometimes even lead to death. Vaccination is the key to prevention — and highly recommended for anyone at risk.
There are three main Hepatitis vaccine types available in the USA.
- Hepatitis A vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Hepatitis A/B vaccine.
- Hepatitis A/B vaccine is approved for adults 18 and older who are recommended to have both Hepatitis and B vaccine
If you’re in the Las Vegas or Chicago areas, e7 Health can provide you with more information on hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Contact us today for help or to schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
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