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Hepatitis Medical Myths: A Look At The Facts

An infection of the liver is known as hepatitis. Most commonly, it occurs as a result of a viral infection or alcohol consumption, but there are also other causes, including toxins, drugs, and certain medical conditions. Hepatitis can be broadly classified into five categories: A, B, C, D, and E. These are the two most common types of hepatitis.

Hepatitis Medical Myths: A Look At The Facts

One of them is Shelley Facente, Ph.D., a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley’s Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Dr. Lauren Nephew is a gastroenterologist with Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

Hepatitis Medical Myths: A Look At The Facts

1. Hepatitis of all types is equally dangerous

Various types of hepatitis are self-limiting, meaning that they usually resolve without treatment. Several types of the drug have been linked to hepatitis C or liver cancer. Facente explained that hepatitis viruses resemble each other but are very different. Hepatitis A, B, and C have different causes, symptoms, and treatments:

There is not a great likelihood to suffer any serious complications or long-term illness while suffering from hepatitis A. In some cases, chronic hepatitis B can cause very serious health problems. However, this only happens in 2–6% of adults with an initial viral infection, and some people do not have symptoms for the initial infection (though most do). Oftentimes, people infected with hepatitis C do not experience symptoms at first, but 60-80% will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, which can ultimately cause liver cancer and liver cirrhosis and cause death. Facente explained that even if you feel well, it is important for you to have a hepatitis A and B vaccination, as well as a screening for hepatitis C.

2. Hepatitis C is extremely rare

325 million people worldwide have hepatitis B or C, or both, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There were 115,900 acute hepatitis A, B, or C infections in the United States in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hepatitis C caused 399,000 deaths according to the WHO in 2016. Cirrhosis and liver cancer are most commonly caused by hepatitis B and C. The majority of viral hepatitis deaths are caused by them.

The number one cause of death from an infectious disease in the U.S. since 2013 has been hepatitis C, according to Facente. A few days ago, she told me an estimated 71 million people are living with hepatitis C worldwide, as well as 2.4 million in the United States.

3. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot breastfeed

Dr. Nephew said that hepatitis C cannot be transmitted through breast milk. She also noted that individuals with cracked or bleeding breasts should temporarily cease breastfeeding until they have been healed.

4. Hands and kisses can cause people to contract hepatitis

This myth continues to be a myth, despite its widespread distribution. There are numerous ways for the hepatitis C virus to spread, such as sharing drug injection equipment, using non-sterile tattoo equipment, or coming into contact with blood from a person who has contracted the virus through sex.

5. If you have hepatitis C, you can’t have sex

Persons with hepatitis C do not have the right to have sex. It is, however, important to consider some things.

For an infection to spread, blood from someone infected with hepatitis C must be touched. The activities on which there is a high likelihood of exposure to blood (such as anal sex and sex when pregnant) are considered high risks, said Dr. Nephew. According to the CDC, condom use is not recommended for monogamous couples. HIV-positive individuals and people with short-term sexual relationships with hepatitis C-infected partners are at greater risk of transmission. Condoms must be routinely used in these conditions.

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6. Jaundice is a common symptom of hepatitis

Hepatitis viruses that do not immediately cause liver problems can cause jaundice, according to Facente.

Most people with hepatitis C show no symptoms until decades later when their liver has been severely damaged enough that symptoms such as jaundice or other complications appear.

7. Genetics plays a role in hepatitis

Hissing about hepatitis C being genetic and, thus, transmissible from generation to generation has been around for a long time. The statement is untrue. A virus causes hepatitis C. According to Dr. Nephew, it’s not genetic.

The mother and child can contract hepatitis in rare circumstances during childbirth. This is, however, unlikely to happen more than 2–8% of the time.

8. Each type of hepatitis have vaccines

There is no truth to this. Hepatitis A and B can currently be prevented with vaccines. Facente explains that each of these vaccines requires multiple shots. As of now, the disease cannot be vaccinated.

9. It is impossible for Hepatitis C to survive outside the body

Hepatitis C and hepatitis B remain infectious for about 4 to 6 weeks after drying on a surface, Facente says. The concept of it having a four-day life outside the body was previously believed by many. It is unfortunately a very contagious virus.

10. Hepatitis C cannot be contracted twice

A similar myth exists here as well. It is possible to contract hepatitis C again once someone has been treated and cured. Immune systems don’t fight off the initial infection as vaccines might.

She added that clearance of the virus does not ensure that people won’t contract it again after they have treated themselves. Therefore, it is important to take precautions to prevent reinfection even if the person has cleared up the virus naturally.

11. There are adverse effects from medications for hepatitis C

There is no truth to this. Current hepatitis C treatments usually include eight to twelve weeks of oral therapy with pills, explained Dr. Nephew. Over 90% of patients have been successfully treated. In general, these new medications are very well tolerated and cause very few side effects.

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