Hepatitis Awareness Month

Each May, healthcare organizations around the country raise awareness about Hepatitis.

Hepatitis is caused by the Hepatitis (Hep) virus. All forms of the virus affect the liver, causing it makes to swell up, get bigger, and get softer. If the liver gets too big or soft, it will no longer function properly. This can be dangerous because your liver is one the hardest working and most important organs in the body. Among other functions, the liver helps regulate nutrients and toxins, filtering out materials that can make you sick.

The most common Hep viruses are Hep A, Hep B, and Hep C – know the ABC’s of Hep!

Both Hep A and B have vaccines – Hep C does not.

Hep A is a highly contagious infection that can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. The virus is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person. Via sex, Hep A can be transmitted through oral-anal sex (rimming). The best way to prevent Hep A is to use barriers like dental dams for rimming, and to wash your hands after using the restroom and before eating.

Hep B is spread through blood and sexual fluids such as semen or come, much like HIV. While it may be in saliva, it cannot be transmitted through saliva. The most common symptoms of Hep B feel like the common cold or flu. Hep B will usually go away in a few months (for 4 out of 5 people), but for 1 out of 5 people it can last a long time and cause more serious problems, including chronic Hep B or liver cancer. The best way prevent Hep B is to use barriers like condoms dental dams before sex, and don’t share needles or other tools that might come in contact with blood like razors or toothbrushes.

Hep C is the most dangerous form of Hepatitis, causing more than 16,000 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people who have Hep C don’t know it, underscoring the importance of testing for the disease. The early symptoms often feel like the common cold or flu, and some people may not feel it at all. You can contract Hep C from the blood of a person who has the virus – typically through needles (IV drugs or even tattoos) or through unprotected sex. The best way to prevent Hep C is not to share needles if you are using IV drugs, to avoid sharing tools that might come in contact with blood like shaving razors and toothbrushes, and to use condoms before having sex. There is NO vaccine for Hep C, but there is treatment available that can save your life! If you think you might have Hep C, or are in danger of getting it, talk to a doctor or medical provider.

Be #HepAware! Keep your liver healthy