What is Hepatitis?
How many people have it?
Why worry about Hepatitis?
Important Note: Hepatitis B infection in someone who is HIV+ is more likely to turn into chronic HBV. It is estimated that 5,000 people die each year in the United States due to complications of cirrhosis and liver cancer as a result of HBV.
How is Hepatitis spread?
Poor hand washing and contaminated water supplies can easily transmit HAV, as well as many types of anal sex such as rimming, fisting, fingering, and anal intercourse. Contact with something that's been in contact with the anus of an infected person can also transmit the virus. This means that sharing sex toys, kissing someone who's been rimming, and sucking someone who's just topped someone else can all be risky activities for transmitting HAV.
HBV is the most common sexually-transmitted type of viral hepatitis. People can be infected through anal and vaginal sex by sharing body fluids (blood, semen and vaginal fluids). It is possible, although rare, for Hepatitis B to be transmitted solely via oral sex. People who share or use needles with contaminated blood can be infected. Currently, blood transfusions are rarely the cause of HBV infections in the United States due to the improved screening of blood supplies. Although tattoo, body piercing, and acupuncture needles may transmit HBV, they account for only a small proportion of the total reported cases in the United States.
People who share or use needles or injection drug equipment (works, cotton, cookers, spoons) contaminated with blood can be infected with HCV. Most cases of HCV in the general population today have been the result of blood transfusions in the past. Currently, proper screening for Hepatitis B and C is being done on all blood supplies in the United States.
The risk of transmission via oral and anal sex is unknown, but likely to be very low.
What are the symptoms?
In Hepatitis A, symptoms usually appear 2-6 weeks after infection. In Hepatitis B, symptoms usually appear 6 weeks to 6 months after exposure, if at all. Hepatitis C symptoms, if any, will show up 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure. Symptoms may be brief or last several weeks.
What is a Hepatitis test like?
How is Hepatitis treated?
Chronic HBV can be a fatal disease. There is no cure, although treatments are available to help stop virus replication. Interferon, an antiviral agent, has been 40 percent effective in eliminating chronic HBV infection. It is most effective for people who were infected as adults.
New prescription drugs are now also available including Lamivudine (Epivir) and Adefovir dipivoxil (Hepsera). Talk to your health care provider for more information and to see whether they may be right for you.
HCV is treatable. New studies have shown that up to nearly 50% of people who undergo one year of therapy can be cured. Treatment will differ depending on the stage of illness at the time you seek treatment. Your health care provider can help you make the best decisions about your treatment based on your personal needs and health status.
What can I do if I have Hepatitis?
If you know you have HBV, you can protect others by using condoms during sexual activity.
If you know you have HCV, you can protect others by not donating blood, body organs, tissue or semen; covering any cuts or sores you have to prevent spreading infectious blood or secretions; not sharing personal hygiene items such as razors or toothbrushes and not sharing needles or any other works. Currently there are no recommendations for condom use with HCV infected partners, however there are many other reasons to use condoms regularly for sexual activity.
How do I avoid getting Hepatitis?
A new combination vaccine called Twinrix has been approved for protection from both HAV and HBV in people who are 18 and older. It reduces the total number of injections for vaccination from both viruses from five to three.
If you have not yet been vaccinated and you engage in anal sex activities, using condoms for intercourse and cut-up non-lubricated condoms, household plastic wrap or dams (square pieces of latex) for oral-anal sex can significantly reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis. In addition, wash your hands and sex toys as soon as possible after anal contact.
DR. K'S ADVICE
STD testing, diagnosis and treatment for all, regardless of income.