Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. There are three main viral strains of hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A.

  • Hepatitis B.

  • Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A is a less damaging (virulent) strain. It causes an acute infection that has no long-term problems. However, hepatitis B and C are serious illnesses that have the ability to end one's athletic career or life.

RISK FACTORS

The different strains of hepatitis enter the body by different means. Hepatitis A is spread through oral ingestion of fecal matter. Examples of this include:

  • Drinking contaminated water.

  • Eating shellfish taken from contaminated waters.

  • Improper hand washing.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids; this includes semen and blood. Similar to hepatitis B, hepatitis C is also spread through contact with bodily fluids; however hepatitis A is more associated with contact with infected blood and less commonly through sexual contact.

SYMPTOMS

  • Asymptomatic flu-like symptoms.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Fever.

  • General body aches.

  • Fatigue.

  • Itchy hives.

  • Painful joints.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

  • Yellowing of the eyes.

  • Pain just below the ribs on your right side.

  • Tenderness of the right upper belly.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Use of contaminated syringes.

  • Use of contaminated needles.

  • Handling other people's blood.

  • Improperly sterilized instruments used in tattoo and piercing establishments.

  • Blood transfusions.

PREVENTION

  • Only drink water that has been purified.

  • Wash hands properly before meals and after using the restroom.

  • Reduce exposure to other people's blood by using gloves, goggles, and masks.

  • Do not have unprotected sex ( use condoms ).

  • Avoid tattoos or body piercing. If you get these, make sure the establishment properly sterilizes their instruments.

  • Avoid other sources of contaminated needles.

  • Get hepatitis A vaccination and hepatitis B vaccinations.

  • Gamma globulin shot may prevent infection.

COURSE OF THE DISEASE

  • Once infected, a person may be asymptomatic for up to 6 months.

  • Symptoms usually lasts 1 to 6 weeks, followed by complete recovery.

  • Relapses of symptoms may occur and may be triggered by alcohol and other infections.

  • Relapses are usually milder than the initial infection.

  • Recovery from hepatitis A usually takes 4 to 8 weeks and rarely has lasting effects, such as permanent liver damage.

RELATED COMPLICATIONS

  • Inflammation of the liver lasting longer than 6 months (chronic hepatitis).

  • Other complications can include:

  • Relapse of symptoms.

  • Cirrhosis (destruction and scarring) of the liver.

  • Liver failure.

  • Increased risk for liver cancer.

TREATMENT

Treatment for viral hepatitis infection initially involves rest and consuming a healthy diet. Hepatitis affects the liver, avoid consuming alcohol and certain medicines that are cleared from the body through the liver. If you have question about which medicines are okay for use, contact your caregiver. Certain antiviral medicines (ie. interferon) may be prescribed to help fight against the infection. Women who are pregnant should not take antiviral medicine. It is recommended that you limit your activity level until the symptoms of hepatitis resolve and/or laboratory tests return to normal. You may increase activity as symptoms clear up. Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least 6 months. Do not play any sports if they involve a risk of transmitting hepatitis to another player. Hepatitis is known to make people feel nauseous while eating. However, it is important to maintain a balanced diet even if certain foods make you nauseous.