Hepatitis is a relatively common cause of liver problems, with severe or untreated cases leading to liver failure. Knowing how to prevent hepatitis infections is important for people of all ages and from all walks of life.
At Digestive Disease Specialists in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, our team is skilled in cutting-edge hepatitis treatments as well as in strategies aimed at helping patients prevent hepatitis infections. In this post, learn what you can do to reduce your risk for infection.
Quick facts about hepatitis
Hepatitis is frequently caused by viral infections. There are five types of viral hepatitis — hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E — and each is associated with different triggers and risk factors. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of hepatitis viral infections in the United States.
Hepatitis A is usually a short-term condition associated with contact with contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and C are caused by contact with infected bodily fluids, often through sex, shared needles, or blood transfusions with contaminated blood. These types of viral hepatitis can cause long-term health problems as well as liver failure and death.
Both hepatitis D and E are rare in the United States. Hepatitis D is also associated with contact with contaminated blood, while hepatitis E is more common in areas where sanitation is poor, including parts of Africa, Asia, Central American, and the Middle East.
You can also acquire hepatitis from excessive alcohol consumption or as an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the liver. These types of hepatitis are not associated with a virus.
Preventing hepatitis viral infections
Viral hepatitis prevention strategies vary to some degree based on the type of hepatitis you’re trying to prevent. These general tips can help you take steps to prevent infection and stay healthy.
Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, so if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s definitely time to consider it.
The hepatitis A vaccine is typically given in two doses during childhood. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for adults who were not previously vaccinated and who want to be protected against hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for anyone under age 19 who has not been vaccinated, for people aged 19-59, and for people aged 60 and older who have risk factors for a hepatitis B infection.
Wash your hands
Always use good handwashing practices before eating any foods, even if you plan on using utensils. Wash your hands before coming into contact with foods, after using the restroom, and after coming into contact with any type of bodily fluids. You should also wash your hands frequently if you’re caring for someone with hepatitis.
Practice safe sex
Practicing safe sex helps prevent infections with hepatitis B and C. Remember that most forms of birth control don’t protect against infections. Condoms, mouth dams, and other barrier methods are the only methods that offer protection, but even these options can still fail. If you or your partner has a hepatitis infection, let our team know, so we can provide you with guidance.
Don’t share needles
Both hepatitis B and C can be spread through shared needles. The infection can also spread if you have contact with gauze, bandages, tissues, or other materials or surfaces contaminated by blood.
Use caution when traveling
Hepatitis is much more common in other areas of the world. Before traveling, it’s important to make sure you’re properly vaccinated. Depending on where you’re traveling, you should stick to drinking only bottled water and consuming only well-cooked food.
Pay attention to food prep
Speaking of well-cooked food, never eat raw fruits or vegetables without thoroughly washing them first. You should also limit or avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, which can also be sources of hepatitis A and E.
Finally if you think you might have hepatitis, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has hepatitis, it’s a good idea to get tested. Testing is simple and quick, and it can help you get critical treatment as early as possible to help prevent serious complications, such as permanent liver damage. If you engage in unprotected sex, you have multiple sex partners, you use needle drugs, or you’re a health care worker or first responder, consider getting tested regularly.
Protect your liver
Hepatitis can cause permanent liver damage that, in some cases, can be fatal. If you have hepatitis or you’d like to learn more about hepatitis treatment and prevention, we can help. Request an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.