HEPATITIS, or inflammation of the liver, is sometimes seen in people consuming too much alcohol, but is more commonly a feature of certain infections, which predominantly affect the liver.
The first virus identified as causing hepatitis was discovered in 1963 and became known as Hepatitis B, a blood-borne infection. Ten years later, infectious hepatitis or yellow jaundice was shown to be caused by another virus, now called Hepatitis A, and acquired through the ingestion of the virus in food or water contaminated by faeces. Since then, three further viruses affecting the liver have been identified and were collectively called ‘non-A, non-B’.
The most important of these is Hepatitis C, first identified in 1989 and usually spread by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilised medical equipment, needlestick injuries in healthcare, transfusions, sharing of personal items and from mother to baby. Whether Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity is controversial.
Hepatitis C may produce symptoms of infections during the acute stages, but this is uncommon and most will resolve. About 80 percent of those infected will enter a chronic stage (lasting more than six months) and may experience a variety of problems within the liver (cirrhosis, liver cancer) and without (inflammation of blood vessels, etc).
Treatment for Hepatitis C has been around for several decades, but unpopular with patients because of the drug side effects. Additionally, care required referral to a specialist and was often difficult to access.
Over the past year or two, advances in antiviral treatment have led to the development of new highly effective drugs for the treatment of all types of Hepatitis C.
Regional GPs with training may be found at Murchison, Kialla and Mooroopna.
For more information, visit Kialla Medical Clinic at Shop 21d, Riverside Plaza, Kialla. Phone 5823 5446 or visit Mooroopna Medical Centre, 87 McLennan Street, Mooroopna. Phone 5825 2755.