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Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the name of a family of viral diseases that affect the liver. The most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Although they vary in the ways they are transmitted, their severity, and their consequences, all types of hepatitis are serious. In particular, Hepatitis B and C can also have long-term consequences including permanent liver damage, liver cancer, and death.

Hepatitis A


The symptoms of hepatitis A can include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, jaundice and dark urine.These symptoms can last up to five weeks, during which time you may be unable to work or conduct any of your routine daily tasks.

There is no cure for hepatitis A, although bed rest and dietary changes can alleviate some of the symptoms. Long-term effects can last as long as six months to one year. Hepatitis A is rarely fatal (100 deaths per year in the United States), but 20% of hepatitis A cases require hospitalization.

Swallowing fecal matter, even in microscopic quantities. Infection occurs most often during sex or when travelling to a country where hepatitis A is endemic.

Among men who have sex with men, hepatitis A can be spread by direct anal/oral contact (rimming) or by contact with fingers, sex toys or condoms which have been in or near the anus of an infected sex partner. Increased rates of hepatitis A infection among gay and bisexual men have been reported in many large cities and by many physicians with a large number of gay and bisexual male patients.

As with all STDs, the greater number of sex partners you have, the greater your risk of infection with hepatitis A.

The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A is by vaccination. Other ways to protect yourself include avoiding rimming and other anal and oral contact. While condom use is essential in preventing the spread of HIV, hepatitis B and other STDs, it does not prevent the spread of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B


The symptoms of hepatitis B can include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, jaundice and dark urine. Acute symptoms can last several months, during which time you may be unable to work or conduct your routine daily tasks.

There is no cure for hepatitis B, although bed rest and dietary changes can alleviate some of the symptoms. Long-term effects can last as long as six months to one year, during which time you cannot drink any alcoholic beverages.

In approximately 10 percent of cases, hepatitis B can become chronic. A person with a case of chronic hepatitis B can be a carrier, infecting others even when no symptoms are present. Chronic hepatitis B can also lead to permanent liver damage, liver cancer, and death. It is estimated that over 1 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is transmitted by bodily fluids such as blood, semen, saliva and vaginal secretions. The hepatitis B virus is 100 times more concentrated in the blood than the HIV virus, making it much easier to spread.

Hepatitis B can be spread by anal or oral sex, by sharing needles, or by tattooing or piercing equipment which has not been properly sterilized.

Increased rates of hepatitis B infection among gay and bisexual men have been reported in many large cities and by most physicians with a heavy percentage of gay and bisexual male patients.

As with all STDs, the greater number of sex partners you have, the greater your risk of infection with hepatitis B.

The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis B is by vaccination. Other ways to protect yourself include use of a condom for anal or oral sex, and to avoid sharing needles or "bullets" if you use drugs.

Hepatitis C


Hepatitis C is often called the "silent epidemic." The virus can live in the body for decades, often with no symptoms, while attacking the liver. Long-term consequences of hepatitis C can include liver disease, liver cancer, and death.

While the transmission of hepatitis C is not completely understood, it appears that most cases can be traced to blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, when a screening test for the virus was developed, or to infected needles used for illicit drugs.

There is some evidence that hepatitis C can be spread by shared use of "bullets" for snorting drugs, and through sexual contact. There is no cure for hepatitis C and no vaccine.

If you fall into a risk group (blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, shared use of needles or bullets for snorting drugs), you may choose to be tested for the virus.

There are lifestyle changes suggested for people living with hepatitis C that can minimize damage to the liver, and treatments available to manage the course of the disease and its consequences.

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