Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that is caused by a virus. Viruses that effect the primarily liver and cause hepatitis are Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H. Other viruses that may also cause some inflammation of the liver are Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barre Virus (EBV), the virus that causes Infectious Mono) and Herpes virus (HV). Infection with these CMV, EBV and HV is usually self-limited and will only rarely causes liver failure.
There are two types of viral hepatitis, acute and chronic. Only Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can lead to the development of chronic hepatitis. The symptoms of hepatitis include:
Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Viral hepatitis is diagnosed by blood tests which detect the specific antibodies in the serum to confirm the presence of the virus and to determine whether an infection is early, recent or a past infection.
Hepatitis A (HAV) is caused by an RNA Hepatovirus of Picornaviruses family and is transmitted predominantly by the oral-fecal route and from person to person and by contaminated food and water. It is found world-wide in areas of poor hygiene and low socioeconomic conditions. Hepatitis E (HEV) is an unclassified RNA virus which also spreads by the oral-fecal route and causes acute limited disease. Hepatitis B(HBV) is caused by a DNA Orthohepadnavirus of the Hepadnavirus family. It is found throughout the world. The virus is acquired by contact with infected blood or body secretions, from transfusions, unprotected sex, and needle sharing. It can also be transmitted from mother to child at birth. Hepatitis C (HCV) is caused by an RNA virus Flavivirus. It is spread by blood and body secretions and is the most common cause of posttransfusion hepatitis. Hepatitis D (HDV) or delta virus is a defective RNA plant virus which consists of the surface or coat of HBV and the core of HDV. HDV is only infectious when it is combined with HBV infection and may lead to a fulminant sate and chronic hepatitis. Hepatitis F virus (HFV) is a Paramyxovirus, a non-A non-B virus which causes a fulminant hepatitis called giant cell hepatitis. The following viruses have been associated with post-transfusion hepatitis Hepatitis G (HGV), Transfusion-transmitted virus (TTF) and Hepatitis H (HHV) non-A, non-E virus also known as SEN virus (SEV-V) cause only limited liver cell damage.
HAV can be prevented by vaccination for the virus. For those who have not been vaccinated good hygiene practices and avoiding contaminated food and water will prevent HAV. HBV can be prevented by vaccination. Children and infants should be vaccinated routinely. Those who are not vaccinated should avoid contact blood and body secretions and avoid unprotected sex. Treatment for acute hepatitis is supportive. Patients with acute hepatitis should getting plenty of rest, drink plenty fluids and have a well balanced diet. The health care provider will monitor the patient by laboratory tests. Patients should refrain from alcohol during recovery and avoid over the counter medications. Patients who develop chronic HBV and HCV are treated with anti-virals and interferon. The goal of therapy is to suppress viral replication to minimize inflammation and scarring of the liver, to prevent cirrhosis and to eradicate the virus.