Protect your liver. You’re going to need it well into your later years.
Hepatitis A is always out there, but it is making itself known – right here and right now – in our neighborhood. NH DHHS recently identified one case here in Nashua, and five others have been identified within Hillsborough County. So now is the time to learn your “ABC’s” – what Hepatitis A, B, and C are – and how you can protect yourself and others. Don’t freak out. There’s lots you can do to protect yourself. Check that link above for a quick overview, and read on.
Hep A usually causes short term damage to the liver, although some deaths have occurred. It’s more common in younger folks (teens – middle age). What does it look like? Yellowing of the whites of the eyes, and of the skin. Pale stool. Dark urine. Fatigue. Stomach upset. Low or no appetite. Maybe a fever.
How do you minimize Hepatitis A risk for yourself – and others? Be cautious with what you eat and drink and make sure what you consume is clean. Avoid contact with stool, blood and saliva of others. Get the vaccine. And of course, wash your hands. When? After you visit a health care facility. After you visit a grocery or any retail store. After you get home from any public gathering, especially if you’ve been shaking hands. After you visit a restroom, of course. Before you eat. Before you prepare a meal. And while you’re at it, make sure to wash all that produce from the store before you prepare it. Clean food. Clean hands. You get the idea.
So that’s A. What about Hep B and C?
Hep B is more common and often self limiting. But that does not equate to benignant – it can lead to chronic infection and liver damage. What does it look like? This one is tricky. It may not be obvious or look like anything at all. People can be carriers and spread Hep B without even knowing they are sick! Symptoms might include dark urine, upset stomach, fatigue, and yellowing of the eyes or skin.
Last, but certainly not least, Hep C. Hep C is the most damaging of the hepatitis viruses. Insidious and silent – often without symptoms, it takes its heavy toll. Most people who contract Hep C will develop chronic liver disease. There is no vaccine yet available for Hep C prevention, and Hep C is the most common reason for liver transplants.
What can you do to minimize your risk of Hepatitis B and C? Prevention is key! Avoid risky behaviors that increase your chance of contact with the blood or body fluids of others. Avoid unprotected sex. Don’t share used needles. Get the Hep B vaccine. And remember the basics: wash your hands.
So now you know your ABC’s! Please do take this lesson to heart…in order to protect your liver.
University of California, Berkeley