Hepatitis, easy as ABC

Most people only know of Hepatitis from their travel vaccinations stamp collection, but you probably also knew that Hepatitis affects the liver. Well done. But Hepatitis is so much more. It is such an interesting disease. If it was a Popstar I would sing all her songs. Let’s look at some nice things about this fascinating disease.

1. Inflammation of your liver

The latin name for liver is Hepar, and -itis is something we glue after everything to indicate it’s inflammated (colitis = inflammation of intestines, conjunctivitis = inflammation of eye, wapitis = two or more North American deer with large much-branched antlers). Hepatitis means you have an inflammation of your liver. This can be due to a virus (a viral hepatitis) but also by alcohol. If you want to be left alone the morning after the GT-mayhem don’t say you are hungover, no, you’ve got something “far more serious”: you’ve got a starting alcoholic hepatitis.

2. There are 5 viruses that cause viral hepatitis

There is A, B, C, D and E. They all cause the inflammation of your liver, but all in different ways. It’s not like when you learn how to swim that you get your A diploma first, then B, etc. These viruses can sneak up on you when you least expect it and all at the same time.

Hepatitis A: is transmitted fecal orally
Or in plain language from poop to mouth. Hence the true meaning of “being shitfaced”. If you don’t wash your hands after doing number two on the toilet or if a chef in a restaurant doesn’t do it, this virus can enter your mouth via the food that you eat. It gives you symptoms almost always and for about one month, some people get severely sick though. Sad thing is, we can’t really treat it, you just have to lie in bed and wait while turning yellow (you turn back to your normal color in the end). We do have good vaccinations though!

Hepatitis B: transmitted sexually or via blood.
It can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. Very sad for the child so we need to avert this. This is actually what I’m currently researching. A lot of times the infection becomes chronic and gives no symptoms for years. It does lead to liver failure and can cause liver cancer. We have medication to suppress the virus but most of the times the patients need to take medication their entire life. Better to prevent with some vaccinations! In most vaccination programs, Hepatitis B is part of the immunization of all children. All medical personnel are already obligated to get vaccinated, because there have been numerous outbreaks in history where an infected surgeon transmitted the virus to patients and vice versa.

Hepatitis C: transmitted via blood.
Mostly intravenous drug users are prone to infection, but also men who have sex with men are at increased risk if they do stuff with their anus or put stuff in their anus. Luckily, we recently got really nice medications to treat this infection! Keep stuffing your anus, we’ve got your back! Well, figuratively…

Hepatitis D: transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids…
However only in patients that are infected with hepatitis B virus. Without B, no D. 

Hepatitis E: transmitted via consumption of contaminated water or food.
Experts are still unsure of the real impact of this virus in a person. It appears as if more people are infected without having symptoms. There are vaccines available, but until we know the exact burden of this disease, we probably won’t regularly distribute them.

3. Beware: an inflamed liver can stop functioning. The dangers of having Hepatitis

I still trap many medical students with asking them what the functions of the liver actually are. Here we go, the main functions:

  • detoxification of your blood. Yep, that alcohol you have been drinking is being processed by your liver. If you’re shitfaced regularly (aka alcoholism), your liver has to work so hard detoxifying you blood that it affects the function to do so. This makes you confused or worse.
  • production of clotting factors. Without your liver making these, you would bleed through all your pores and in your brain and everywhere.
  • production of glucose. Without your liver, you have no back up storage of glucose which is our main fuel. You would have to eat all the time, best excuse for Secret Eaters: I have an infection, I must eat. 
  • bile production. Your blood cells get renewed every so often and their dead bodies are taken from your blood by your liver and made into bile. This stuff makes your poop brown. Without your liver this will stay in your blood turning you yellow as big bird and your urine brown.
  • breaking down of hormones. Without a functioning liver, hormones like estrogen will not be broken down. This will result in men having boobs. And men shouldn’t have boobs… fact.

There you go, easy as ABC. Just remember to get all your vaccinations and limit your visits to poop-eating/fisting/vampire parties. You should be alright on the viral hepatitis issue.

For me, I’ll try to find a way to reduce mother to child transmission here on the Myanmar-Thai border in order to get rid of Hepatitis B for once and for all!

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