Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are both viral infections that primarily affect the liver. While they share similarities, there are also distinct differences between them.

  1. Causes:
    • Hepatitis B (HBV): Caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth.
    • Hepatitis C (HCV): Caused by the hepatitis C virus, primarily spread through contact with infected blood. This can occur through sharing needles, needlestick injuries, or through blood transfusions (although this is rare now due to screening of blood donations).
  2. Symptoms:
    • Both hepatitis B and C can be asymptomatic for many years, leading to chronic infection without noticeable symptoms.
    • When symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, and loss of appetite.
  3. Chronic Infection and Complications:
    • Both hepatitis B and C can lead to chronic infection, which increases the risk of developing liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
    • Hepatitis C tends to progress to chronic infection more often than hepatitis B.
  4. Treatment:
    • Hepatitis B: There are antiviral medications available to manage hepatitis B, but they are not always curative. Treatment aims to suppress the virus and reduce liver damage.
    • Hepatitis C: Treatment for hepatitis C has advanced significantly in recent years. Direct-acting antiviral medications can cure the infection in most cases.
  5. Prevention:
    • Both hepatitis B and C can be prevented through vaccination for hepatitis B and by avoiding behaviors that can lead to exposure to infected blood, such as sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sex.
  6. Global Burden:
    • Hepatitis B is more widespread globally, particularly in regions like sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.
    • Hepatitis C is also a significant public health concern, with an estimated 71 million people living with chronic hepatitis C infection globally.
  7. Testing:
    • Both hepatitis B and C infections can be diagnosed through blood tests that detect viral antigens or antibodies produced by the body in response to the infection.

It’s essential for individuals at risk or with symptoms to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis, management, and treatment of hepatitis B or C infections to prevent complications and transmission to others.

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