There are several different types of Hepatitis which vary from the most commonly known, such as Hepatitis B and C, the lesser known Hepatitis E, F and G. Here is some more information about the various different types of Hepatitis:
Hepatitis A: This is rare in the UK as it is most commonly seen in countries such as Africa, Central and South America, India and the Far East where sanitation is poor. This type of Hepatitis is caused by a virus which can be contracted by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with the infection.
Hepatitis B: A highly infectious virus and can be contracted in a number of ways such as intravenous drug use, unprotected sex, pregnant women to their babies or from child to child. The virus is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV as an example.
This type of Hepatitis is still fairly uncommon in the UK and is generally caused by infection from visiting areas of the world where the virus is more prevalent, such as Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Most adults who are infected with Hepatitis B will generally be able to fight off the virus to then fully recover from the infection within several months. People who are infected earlier in life (i.e. childhood) will generally develop a long-term infection (Chronic Hepatitis B) which can also lead to Cancer of the Liver and Cirrhosis.
Risk groups for Hepatitis B in the UK are drug users, healthcare workers, homosexual males and people who regularly travel to areas where the infection is common. For these people, vaccination against Hepatitis is highly recommended.
Hepatitis C: The most common type of Hepatitis in the UK due to the fact that it can be contracted by blood to blood contact with an infected person. This type of Hepatitis is most commonly seen in drug users and healthcare workers who have been exposed to unsafe medical practices.
There are no specific or noticeable symptoms for Hepatitis C apart from some flu-like symptoms in some cases, so it is highly likely that people will be unaware that they have it. According to figures, approximately 1 in 4 people with Hepatitis C will fight the infection naturally and become free of the virus. For the rest, the infection will remain in the body for many years and is then known as Chronic Hepatitis C, which can also cause Cirrhosis and Liver Failure.
Hepatitis D: Also generally rare in the UK and only seen in people who are already infected with Hepatitis B as it needs the Hepatitis B virus to be able to survive. Generally also spreads through blood to blood contact or unprotected sex and more commonly seen in areas such as Middle East, South America and parts of Europe.
Hepatitis E: Now the UK’s most common cause of short-term or acute Hepatitis, but still very rare and usually only a short term infection (not requiring treatment). Generally contracted by eating food or drinking something that is contaminated with the virus which has been passed by a person with the infection
There is currently no vaccination for Hepatitis E, however, you are able to reduce the risk of infection by following some simple common hygiene practices. This can also be more serious and become chronic within groups of people who have a suppressed immune system, for example, people receiving an organ transplant.
Alcoholic Hepatitis: As it says in the name, this type of Hepatitis is caused by the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol over a period of several years generally. This is common in the UK due to the drinking culture in certain areas of the country and many people wouldn’t even realise they have it, due to the fact that there are generally no noticeable symptoms.
If you have Alcoholic Hepatitis, then stopping drinking will usually enable the liver to recover over a period of time, however continuing to consume alcohol can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. The easiest way to reduce your risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis is to reduce your intake of alcohol levels to the recommended 14 units per week.