Hepatitis: Vaccination Can Protect Against Some Forms
New York Gastroenterologist, William S. Silver, MD
with a practice in West Nyack and on staff at Nyack Hospital shares vital information about Hepatitis.
Hepatitis, the inflammation of the liver, comes in different forms. Some are mild, while others can cause serious health problems. In some cases, hepatitis can lead to scarring—called cirrhosis. Some cases of hepatitis can also lead to liver cancer. You can get a vaccine to protect against certain types of the disease.
While hepatitis doesn’t always cause symptoms, it can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements, stomach pain or jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).
The most common forms are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), which is spread through contact with an infected person’s stool. It can be spread in several ways, including by eating food made by an infected person who did not wash their hands after using the bathroom. You can also catch hepatitis A by having close contact with an infected person.
Hepatitis A is diagnosed through a blood test. It usually goes away after a few weeks without treatment, but some people experience symptoms for up to six months. The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent HAV. Regular handwashing before preparing food, after using the toilet and after changing diapers can also help reduce the spread of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B, caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), spreads through contact with an infected person’s body fluid, such as blood or semen. A woman who is infected with HBV can pass the virus on to her baby at birth. As with hepatitis A, some people don’t have symptoms. Hepatitis B is also diagnosed through a blood test, and often gets better without treatment after a few months. In some cases, HBV does not get better—this is called chronic HBV, which can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer.
The vaccine that protects against HBV requires three shots. Today all babies are generally given the vaccine. Older children and adults can be vaccinated against HBV.
Hepatitis C, caused by the hepatitis C vaccine, generally spreads through contact with infected blood. It also can be spread through sex with a person infected with HCV. An infected mother can pass the virus to her baby at birth. Many people with HCV don’t have symptoms. It is diagnosed through a blood test. Unlike hepatitis A or B, hepatitis C usually does not get better on its own. If untreated, it can lead to liver scarring or liver cancer. Medicines used to treat HCV can have side effects. Some people with hepatitis C require a liver transplant. There is no HCV vaccine.
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.