Hepatitis A, B & C


There are 3 different kinds of Hepatitis. Each type has different symptoms and different treatments.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus which can cause inflammation of the liver.

Transmission

Hepatitis A is spread most often from person to person by oral to faecal contact, i.e., by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with infected faeces. This can occur in the through:

Infected raw food supply

Occasionally in New Zealand, and often overseas, the food supply can become infected. This sometimes occurs in shellfish growing in water contaminated with faeces (raw sewage).

Poor hygiene habits

Forgetting to wash your hands with soap and water after having a bowel motion, or before eating or preparing food. It is thought the virus can also be passed on from contact with an infected surface, such as a nappy change table or kitchen workbench.

Having sex

Infection is more likely when practicing anal/oral sex or when fingers have been in contact with the anus then the mouth. Sexual infection is more common in men.

Prevention

An effective vaccination against Hepatitis A is available. A combination Hepatitis A and  B vaccination is called Twinrix is available from your doctor.  

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms will usually show up 2 – 6 weeks after being exposed to the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms are usually mild, but may last for up to several months, especially in adults.

Symptoms include:

Testing

Both women and men can be tested for Hepatitis A by a blood test.

Treatment

For most people infected by hepatitis A there is no specific treatment and the virus will disappear by itself over a few months. The person is then immune to the virus and cannot be re-infected.

People with Hepatitis A infection should avoid drugs, alcohol, excessively fatty diets, or anything that may affect the liver. If you suspect that you have Hepatitis A you should see your doctor.

If You’re HIV + and have Hepatitis A….

While Hepatitis A will not seriously impact on HIV but it may cause difficulties with anti-retroviral medication if there is severe nausea and vomiting.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is a virus which causes this.

Transmission

People with the Hepatitis B carry it in their body fluids: they have it in their blood and semen and in their saliva too. If you get any of these get into your body or bloodstream, you can get Hepatitis B.

Most people get infected through oral, anal or vaginal sex, especially if they don’t use condoms and lube.

If you inject drugs (including steroids), you are at risk if you share needles and other injecting equipment.

Sharing razor blades, sex toys and toothbrushes can also spread the virus, as it can live in dried blood.

Prevention

There is an effective Hepatitis B vaccination. A combination Hepatitis A and B vaccination (Twinrix) is also available through your doctor.

Signs and Symptoms

Hepatitis B can affect people in different ways. Many people don’t get any symptoms, but they can still pass on the virus. Others get mild symptoms that they don’t recognise as Hepatitis B, while others get seriously ill but gradually recover.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B include:

  • aches and pains
  • exhaustion
  • headaches
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach pain
  • feeling sick.

Testing

Both women and men can be tested for Hepatitis B by a blood test.

Treatment

Most people recover from Hepatitis B. Some retain the virus in their body – there are treatments for these people available through your doctor.

If You’re HIV + and have Hepatitis B…

Co-infection with both HIV and Hepatitis B may lead to more rapid progression of Hepatitis B to liver cancer. Treatment for Hepatitis B may also be less successful and limited by resistance to some antiviral medications that might have been used to treat HIV.

Why should I worry about getting  Hepatitis B?

About 10% of people who get Hepatitis B develop long-term liver problems, while about 1% die as a result of the illness.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus which can cause damage to the liver.

The NZAF provides rapid Hepatitis C testing, click here to book

Transmission

Hepatitis C virus is transmitted by transfer of blood, most commonly through drug users sharing needles. It was also transmitted through blood transfusions or blood products prior to screening of donated blood for hepatitis C, which started in New Zealand in July 1992. Non-sterile tattooing or body piercing equipment also poses a risk of hepatitis C transmission. Hepatitis C also be transmitted from mother to child at birth. However, it is much less infectious than hepatitis B and does not spread as readily. The risk of sexual transmission appears to be very low, provided no blood-to-blood contact occurs.

Prevention

There is no vaccine available for immunisation against Hepatitis C virus. To prevent spreading the infection, do not donate blood or share needles; do not share any equipment, including spoons and tourniquets. Cover any open cuts and sores, and wipe up blood spills, cleaning the surface with bleach afterwards. Although transmission thought vaginal sex is rare, using condoms and lube is highly recommended.

Signs and Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of Hepatitis C are similar to those of Hepatitis A and B.

In the early stages of Hepatitis C, symptoms may be absent and they can take years after the initial infection to show up. If they are present, symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, and pain under the ribs, sweating and intolerance of fatty diets.

Testing

Hepatitis C can be detected by a blood test.

Treatment

There is no cure for Hepatitis C. Maintaining a healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake and cutting down on smoking can improve the body’s ability to cope with Hepatitis C.