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Hepatitis Awareness: Dispelling Common Myths

By Dr. Pratyush Sharan Singhal in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Endoscopy

Jul 28 , 2023 | 2 min read

Hepatitis is a significant global health concern affecting millions of people worldwide. However, despite its prevalence, misconceptions, and myths about hepatitis persist. In this blog, we will debunk common myths surrounding its transmission, prevention, and treatment. By dispelling these myths, we hope to promote accurate information and raise awareness about this serious viral infection.

Myth 1: Hepatitis is a Single Disease

Fact: Hepatitis is not a single disease, but it is a group of viral infections that primarily affect the liver. There are five types of hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E. Each type has distinct characteristics, modes of transmission, and varying degrees of severity.

Hepatitis A and E are typically transmitted through contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis B, C, and D are primarily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, or from mother to child during childbirth.

Myth 2: Hepatitis is Only Transmitted Through Unprotected Sex

Fact: While it is true that hepatitis B and, to a lesser extent, hepatitis C can be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, these viruses can also spread through other means. Hepatitis B can be transmitted due to contact with infected blood, sharing of needles among intravenous drug users, and from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing of needles.

Myth 3: Hepatitis A is a Mild Illness and Doesn't Require Serious Attention

Fact: Although hepatitis A is generally less severe than other forms of hepatitis, it is essential to take the infection seriously. Hepatitis A can result in acute liver failure, especially in individuals with pre-existing liver conditions. Additionally, the virus is highly contagious, and outbreaks can occur in crowded or unsanitary environments.

Myth 4: Hepatitis B and C Will Always Show Obvious Symptoms

Fact: Many individuals infected with hepatitis B and C may not experience any symptoms for years or even decades. This asymptomatic phase can lead to the silent progression of liver damage, causing liver cirrhosisliver cancer making early detection crucial. Regular screening and testing are essential, especially for individuals with risk factors like a history of intravenous drug use or unprotected sexual activity.

Myth 5: Hepatitis Vaccines are Not Effective

Fact: Hepatitis vaccines, particularly for hepatitis A and B, are highly effective in preventing infection. Both vaccines stimulate the body's immune response to develop antibodies against the respective viruses. Vaccination is recommended for people at risk, including healthcare workers, travellers to high-risk regions, and those with multiple sexual partners.

Myth 6: Hepatitis is Only a Risk in Developing Countries

Fact: Hepatitis is a global health issue, and its prevalence is not limited to developing countries. While certain regions may have higher infection rates due to factors like poor sanitation and limited access to healthcare, hepatitis can affect anyone, regardless of their location. In developed countries, hepatitis B and C are often associated with risky behaviours, such as sharing needles and engaging in unprotected sex.

Myth 7: There is No Cure for Hepatitis B and C

Fact: While there is no cure for hepatitis B, antiviral medications are available to manage the infection and reduce the risk of complications. For hepatitis C, significant advancements have been made in recent years. Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs have revolutionised the treatment landscape, with cure rates exceeding 95%. 

Dispelling common myths about hepatitis is crucial to fostering accurate awareness about the virus. Understanding the different types of hepatitis, modes of transmission, and available prevention methods is essential in combating this global health challenge.