How Caregivers Can Protect Themselves From Hepatitis
By Diane Stresing
When your daily responsibilities involve taking care of someone with hepatitis, protecting yourself — and others — is paramount. You can take certain measures to reduce your risk of infection. Understanding how hepatitis is spread is the first step.
Hepatitis Caregiving From A Through E
“People are very confused about the different types of hepatitis,” notes Thelma King Thiel, RN, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Hepatitis Foundation International.
The five identified types of viral hepatitis — A, B, C, D, and E — all cause inflammation of the liver, but they vary in severity and how they are transmitted.
- Hepatitis A. This type generally does not lead to chronic infection. It usually occurs when a person eats food or drinks water contaminated with the virus.
- Hepatitis B. This type may cause a mild illness lasting only a few weeks, or it can progress to a chronic condition. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver disease or eventually, in some cases, liver cancer. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted from person to person by infected blood, semen, and other body fluids.
- Hepatitis C. This type usually progresses from an acute illness to a chronic condition. Chronic hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis of the liver as well as liver cancer. The hepatitis C virus is most often transmitted by coming into contact with infected blood.
- Hepatitis D. This serious liver disease is transmitted by contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D can only infect a person who is already infected with hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis E. This virus usually causes an acute (short term) infection. Hepatitis E is transmitted by ingesting fecal matter that contaminates water or food.