Doctor, I know that I can get Hepatitis B from eating raw Seafood right?
This is perhaps one of the commonest misconceptions in Family Practice. The problem is that most patients do not differentiate between Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B which are two very different diseases altogether. So here are a few points to you understand the difference.
1. Hepatitis just means inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can develop from a whole range of conditions. Hepatitis A and B refer to inflammation of the liver caused by 2 different viruses, the Hep A and the Hep B virus.
2. Hep A is the one that you get from eating contaminated food and water. (Not just seafood, any food can be contaminated with the virus). When you get Hep A, you might get jaundiced and develop fever and have flu like symptoms. Most people recover fully from Hep A but some do develop chronic hepatitis and liver damage.
3. Hep B is transmitted through contact with blood or semen. It is spread through contaminated needles (drug abusers) as well as sexual contact. Hep B has more severe consequences than Hep A. People who contract Hep B may go on to become carriers who can spread the disease to others. A person suffering from chronic Hep B may also develop liver failure and liver cancer.
4. You can vaccinate yourself against both Hep A and B. The vaccination for Hep A consists of 2 injections 6 months apart. The Hep B vaccination is 3 vaccinations at 0, 1 and 6 mths.
This is only a short article to help you differentiate between Hep A and B. For more information you may like to read this.
In my next article, I will be talking more about Hep B carriers and what screening tests are required by ALL Hep B carriers.