Vaccinating Against Hepatitis

Vaccinating Against Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation in the liver. There are three types of the hepatitis virus: A, B, and C. Although these diseases are different, they typically cause similar symptoms such as fever, stomach pain, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, dark urine, and jaundice. The incidence rate of all types of hepatitis has been on the rise over the last 20 years, and while hepatitis A and B have vaccinations, hepatitis C is still without one. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you are vaccinating against hepatitis.

Hepatitis A Vaccination

Hepatitis A is transmitted through infected feces, specifically consuming foods that are contaminated with the virus. However, hepatitis A can also be transmitted via anal sex. Almost 20,000 people contract hepatitis A annually, but most go into remission within six months. Liver damage and failure are rare with hepatitis A.

There is a hepatitis A vaccine, which can be administered as soon as children turn two, is effective for up to 20 years and is covered by most health insurance coverages. People who should get vaccinated for hepatitis A are children, people who travel frequently and internationally, gay males, and those who use drugs regularly.

Hepatitis B Vaccination

Hepatitis B is spread via bodily fluids, resulting in up to 40,000 new cases every year. The primary ways hepatitis B is transmitted include sharing needles and sexual contact. Just as with hepatitis C, hepatitis B can also be passed onto a child at birth.

Since there is a vaccination available, it is especially important for children, intravenous drug users, people with multiple sex partners, inmates, medical professionals, and people who travel internationally to get vaccinated for the virus. Hepatitis B vaccination is needed to be repeated three times with set time frames apart. Similar to hepatitis A, most health insurance plans cover the expenses of the vaccination.

Hepatitis C Vaccination

Hepatitis C is spread via blood, affecting nearly 30,000 people every year. As hepatitis C can be asymptomatic until there is serious liver damage, in most cases, the virus becomes chronic and can lead to liver diseases like cirrhosis or even liver cancer without treatment. Hepatitis C has an unstable nature compared to hepatitis A and B, which is why there is still no vaccination for it.

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Treating Hepatitis C

Treating Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that targets the liver, which causes inflammation in the liver and can lead to liver damage and diseases. In most cases, people with hepatitis C do not become aware of they have hepatitis C until they begin to show symptoms related to liver damage or disease. This means that treating hepatitis C can be a challenge.

Hepatitis C can be diagnosed with blood tests as well as liver function tests. Liver function tests work by measuring the amounts of albumin and bilirubin. In some cases, your doctor may also order a liver biopsy for further examination.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

A lot of individuals with hepatitis C do not show any signs of the viral infection until there is some liver damage. However, one of the primary hepatitis C symptoms is a persistent pain, particularly in the abdomen below the rib cages.

Coupled with muscle pain and stomach pain, most people also experience fatigue, fever, nausea, itching, and dark urine. Along with nausea, hepatitis C can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and headaches.

Jaundice is also a common symptom of hepatitis C. Jaundice refers to the discoloration of the whites of the eyes and parts of the skin, usually a yellowish color which is associated with liver failure.

What Causes Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted via contact with contaminated blood. Sharing needles is one of the primary causes of hepatitis C, which is why intravenous drug users are a higher risk of getting hepatitis C.

Getting tattoos and piercings with unsterile equipment that can potentially be contaminated with the virus can also cause hepatitis C. Sharing personal hygiene products like razors and toothbrushes can also put you at risk of getting hepatitis C. Although hepatitis C is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, cuts, sores, and menstrual blood can lead to the exposure of the virus during sexual contact with an infected individual.

Before 1992, blood donations were not screened for hepatitis C, so those who had had a blood transfusion prior to that date may also be infected with hepatitis C. Finally, pregnant women who have hepatitis C can pass the virus onto their child at childbirth.  

How Is Hepatitis C Treated?

The primary hepatitis C treatment is antiviral drugs to eliminate it from the body and prevent further complications associated with the virus. Antiviral medications are typically taken for up three months once daily. In severe cases where the liver is dangerously damaged, a liver transplant is also an option to prolong the patient’s life and improve their quality of life. Although liver transplantation comes with risks and generally involves a long wait list, it can be necessary in some patients’ cases.

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Hepatitis C Explained

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that causes liver damage. Without care and treatment, the viral infection can lead to liver diseases, including liver cancer. Affecting up to 4 million Americans alone, hepatitis C goes unnoticed until it begins to take its toll on the liver, and the patient starts to exhibit symptoms related to liver damage. In fact, it may take several years for an individual with hepatitis C to start showing symptoms.

Understanding Hepatitis C

The liver is a vital organ responsible for battling infections, flushing out pathogens, and digestion. Hence, when it is in distress and under attack, this begins to impact the whole body with a wide array of taxing symptoms. When hepatitis C targets the liver, the symptoms that most people exhibit are fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, stomach pain, itching, and dark urine.

It can be detected with a blood test, which can also identify the type of the virus.

Without a test, most people do not find out about their status until such time they begin to suffer from symptoms related to liver damage or disease. Once the virus severely impairs the liver, these are some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for: diarrhea, fever, jaundice, loss of appetite, dark urine, ankle swelling, stomach discomfort, and prolonged bleeding.

In the cases where the hep C virus cannot be destroyed, without treatment, the infection can result in cirrhosis. Cirrhosis symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, nausea, spider veins, and jaundice.

Treating Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C treatment depends on the genotypes, the severity of liver damage, medical history, and viral load. Unfortunately, medications are costly, come with adverse side effects, and are not effective in all patients. In most cases, most people get diagnosed when they already have chronic hepatitis C.

It is primarily treated with antiviral drugs to prevent liver diseases and cancer and typically taken for three months to a year such as ribavirin or peginterferon. However, with the recent treatments, hepatitis C virus can become undetectable in the blood after a few months of treatment.

Getting enough rest, giving up alcohol, and following your treatment to a T is essential. In advanced cases where the liver is severely damaged, a liver transplant can also be an option to prolong life and improve the quality of life.

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Treatment Advancements for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that targets the liver, resulting in complications such as liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer in severe cases. Thankfully, there has been substantial progress in the way hepatitis C is treated over the past few years, and the new hepatitis C treatments can nearly eliminate the virus within three months.

Here are the newest forms of hepatitis C treatments that have broken new ground.

Harvoni — Harvoni is an FDA-approved chronic hepatitis C medication composed of two drugs called ledipasvir and sofosbuvir. The medication is taken daily and highly effective in curing hepatitis C. However, Harvoni is quite costly so it is not an option for every patient. The side effects of the drug include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue.

Ribavirin — Ribavirin is typically taken twice per day with a combination of other hepatitis C drugs and can be used by both adults and kids. As ribavirin comes with an increased risk of heart attack, people with heart disease cannot go on ribavirin.

Ribavirin can also result in anemia, so people who are anemic can only take the medication in small doses. Some common side effects ribavirin is associated with include headaches, muscle pain, stomach pain, nausea, anxiety, coughing, drowsiness, fatigue, and fever.

Daklinza — This new medication is used for hepatitis C with genotype 3 in combination with Sovaldi and can stop the life cycle of hep C at any stage. This combination of drugs is taken for three months once per day, but if there is considerable liver damage or cirrhosis, a drug called ribavirin can also be added to the daily regimen. The side effects that Daklinza most commonly causes are fatigue and headaches.

Your doctor will be able to determine which new hepatitis C treatment is the right option for your specific case depending on your risk factors and the condition of your liver and will combine a new treatment with a traditional medication if needed to increase the efficacy.

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Hepatitis C Transmission Risks

Hepatitis C Transmission

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is spread via blood. Without treatment, hepatitis C mainly targets the liver and can lead to serious liver damage and even liver cancer over time. The downside of hepatitis C is that people with the virus do not exhibit any signs and symptoms until it starts to damage their liver. Here are the most common forms of Hepatitis C transmission.

Sharing Needles

Any exposure to infected blood increases the risk of getting hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through sharing needles. People who use intravenous drugs are at an increased risk of hepatitis C due to sharing needles. Getting tattoos and piercings with unsterile equipment is also high-risk and another way hepatitis C can be spread.

Blood Transfers

The primary way hepatitis C is transmitted is via blood, so it can also be spread via infected blood transfusions. Until 1992, blood donations were not being screened for the virus, so many individuals with hepatitis C got infected before 1992.

Sex

Although transmission via sexual contact is not common, exposure to blood is still possible if a sexual partner is infected with hepatitis C. Small cuts, for instance, can increase the risk of transmission. Even though they are fully effective, using protection during sex is important to prevent transmission.

Mother to Child

Though not very common, pregnant women who have hepatitis C can potentially pass the virus onto their child at birth. Mothers who have the hepatitis C virus should also avoid breastfeeding to prevent transmission.

Toothbrushes and Razors

Even though this is not very common as well, sharing personal hygiene products like toothbrushes and razors that can make contact with infected blood can also put you at a risk of getting hepatitis C. While the likelihood is very small, but sores in the mouth or cuts while shaving can contaminate razors and toothbrushes.

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What Causes Hepatitis C?

Causes Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver condition caused by the hep C virus. Without treatment, the viral infection can lead to liver damage and even cancer. So what causes hepatitis C?

Affecting nearly 4 million people in the United States alone, most individuals with the virus do not become aware of their condition until they start experiencing symptoms related to liver damage. Most people are unaware that they have hepatitis C until it has already caused some damage to their liver as it can take years for an individual to exhibit hepatitis C signs.

Hepatitis C Signs

Hepatitis C is typically asymptomatic following exposure to the virus. However, the virus can begin to take its toll on the liver before people start showing any symptoms.

When people with hep C begin to exhibit symptoms, they are typically joint and muscle pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, and dark urine. Hepatitis C can also cause itchy skin and jaundice, which causes yellowish discoloration on the skin and in the eyes. Jaundice often occurs when the primary symptoms begin to subside.

What Causes Hepatitis C?

The most common way hepatitis C is transmitted is via blood, and typically due to sharing infected needles. The United States only began testing blood donations for the hep C virus after 1992, so those who had a blood transfusion before 1992 should get screened if they are already not aware of their status. Just as with sharing needles, getting tattoos and piercings with unhygienic and potentially infected equipment is another common way hep C is transmitted.

Though the incidence rate is low and hepatitis C is not a sexually transmitted disease, sexual contact can also be a concern if the person is infected with the virus. Pregnant women who have hepatitis C can also pass the virus onto their child. However, you cannot get hepatitis C by kissing, sharing utensils, physical contact, and sneezing. Hep C requires one to be exposed to the blood of an infected individual.

Treating Hepatitis C

Though it may not be the appropriate course of treatment for everyone, antiviral medications are typically used to treat the virus. Every case is separate and pertains individual risks, so your doctor ultimately makes the decision as to whether antivirals are the best option depending on the severity of your case and liver damage incurred. There are both standard and newer treatment options to both improve symptoms and prevent the virus from leading to further complications.

Adopting healthier lifestyle choices to keep your immune system and lungs healthy such as regular exercise and a healthy diet is also essential. With today’s advancements, without having a cure, hep C can be considered cured when the virus can no longer be detected in the blood.

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4 Things You Should Do to Recover from Meningitis

Meningitis

Meningitis is a disease typically characterized by the inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Treatment and severity of illness are usually dependent on what type of meningitis one has. Mild cases of the viral strain can usually be recovered from with little to no treatment. Bacterial meningitis typically requires immediate treatment via intravenous antibiotics and more serious forms of viral meningitis is usually treated with intravenous antiviral medicines. Fungal meningitis is usually more serious and may require longer treatment.

No matter what type or what treatment is received, sometimes recovering can be a long process. Symptoms could resurface as the immune system fights off the disease. Below are some steps one can take to ensure they fully recover.

1. Complete the treatment prescribed by your doctor or physician

  • Viral meningitis can be typically recovered from without treatment. The immune system usually fights off the disease within 7 to 10 days. However, in some cases, patients are required to stay at hospitals to fight symptoms and to prevent any complications. Sometimes antiviral medicines may be given.
  • Bacterial meningitis is more serious than viral because symptoms can develop quickly. This can result in a higher chance of complications occurring. Bacterial meningitis is typically treated immediately upon diagnosis through intravenous antibiotics. Kidney dialysis, ventilator assistance, and other similar treatments may also be used to treat it.
  • Fungal meningitis is typically treated through intravenous antifungal medicine. This treatment may be taken throughout a period of time.

2. Get plenty of rest and make sure to take in lots of fluids and healthy nutrients.

  • This will help you regain the strength from fighting meningitis.

3. Try and get back to your routine bit by bit upon your doctor or physician’s recommendation.

  • You may still experience tiredness from the residual symptoms, so take it slow. It is typically suggested for those that are almost fully recovered to try and go through one or two activities per day at a time. This will give your body a chance to recover fully.

4. Try to avoid going to places that involves a lot of crowds. As well, try and avoid those who are ill — even if it’s just a cold!

  • This is because your immune system is weakened while you are fighting the infection. By avoiding crowds and others who are ill, you are lowering your chances of getting more sick and/or another infection that could complicate your illness.

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The Differences Between Meningitis and Encephalitis

The Differences Between Meningitis and Encephalitis

Meningitis occurs when the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord become inflamed, typically due to an infection. Encephalitis occurs when the brain itself becomes inflamed. Although the two conditions seem similar, there are many differences between the two. This is further discussed below.

Meningitis

Meningitis is typically caused by bacterial infections, but it can also be caused by a viral infection, a fungal infection, parasites, certain kinds of cancer, an injury to the head or spine, or by taking some types of medicine.

Meningitis caused by bacterial infections is referred to as bacterial meningitis. It is one of the most life-threatening and serious kinds of meningitis. This is because symptoms can turn severe very quickly in bacterial meningitis and there are several serious complications that could occur, like stroke, hearing loss, and/or permanent brain damage. Bacterial meningitis typically occurs when bacteria travels through a person’s bloodstream and gets to the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Treatment is typically given immediately after diagnosis through intravenous antibiotics. This ensures recovery and helps prevent potential complications.

The most serious type of bacterial meningitis is pneumococcal meningitis. It is also one of the most common types of bacterial meningitis — around 6000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis are reported each year in the United States. Pneumococcal meningitis is caused by an infection of a bacteria called Streptococcus Pheumoniae. There are currently vaccines available to help fight against this type of meningitis.

Another type of meningitis is called viral meningitis. Viral meningitis is caused by viral infections, typically by a group of virus called enteroviruses. These viruses are easily spread because it enters the body via the mouth.

Encephalitis

Encephalitis is typically caused by the same infections that can cause meningitis — namely bacterial infections, viral infections, or fungal infections. Unlike meningitis, which is typically caused by bacterial infections, the most common cause of encephalitis is viral infections. Most encephalitis cases in the United States are caused by enteroviruses, herpes simplex viruses, rabies virus, arboviruses, and sometimes Lyme disease.

It should be noted that more than 60% of encephalitis cases are undiagnosed. This is because symptoms of encephalitis are similar to flu symptoms and usually mild or nonexistent. Encephalitis symptoms — when present — include fever, headaches, confusion, seizures, and problems with senses and movement.

More mild cases of encephalitis can be treated with the same kinds of treatments for the flu. This includes lots of bed rest, fluids, and taking anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Typically, encephalitis is also treated through intravenous antiviral treatment made up of drugs like Acyclovir, Ganciclovir, and Foscarnet.

Those with more severe forms of encephalitis may need additional treatment at a hospital. This can include supportive care like breathing assistance or treatments like intravenous fluids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anticonvulsant medications. One may also need continued treatment after recovering from encephalitis. These treatments include therapies like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and/or psychotherapy. The kind of therapy (or therapies) one receives is typically dependant on the type and/or severity of the complications a patient suffered from having encephalitis.

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The Meningococcal Vaccine: An Overview

Meningococcal Vaccine

One of the most effective ways to prevent meningitis is to get vaccinated. One of these vaccines is called the meningococcal vaccine. According to the United State’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two kinds of meningococcal vaccines in the U.S. The first type of meningococcal vaccine is the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine or Menomune, and the second type is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, or the Menactra, the Menveo, or the MenHibrix.

How does the vaccine work?

The meningococcal vaccine was developed using the harmless parts of the meningococcal bacteria. When the vaccine is inserted into your bloodstream, your body will produce antibodies to protect you against these harmless bacterias. These antibodies will then be able to protect your body, later on, should you contract meningitis.

Who needs the vaccine?

The meningococcal vaccine is especially recommended for those who are 16 to 21 years old as they are most at risk. However, most people should receive the vaccine.

Since it is only effective for five years, all 11 to 12-year-olds should receive either one of the meningococcal vaccine — the Menactra or Menveo. A booster should then be given once someone turns 16. If you have yet to receive a booster before you head to college, it is recommended that you do. In fact, a booster for the meningococcal vaccine or receiving the meningococcal vaccine for many colleges/universities.

It is also recommended that you receive the meningococcal vaccine if you:

  • Are going to live in a dorm or residence
  • Are in the military and have to live in military base camps
  • Have a damaged spleen or have had your spleen removed
  • Have an immune system disorder, such as a complement component deficiency
  • Work in a lab where you are consistently or can be exposed to the meningococcal bacteria
  • Traveling or living in countries where bacterial meningitis caused by the meningococcal bacteria is common
  • Was exposed to meningitis because of an outbreak

Is there a risk in getting vaccinated?

Like anything, there are some risks to receiving the meningococcal vaccine. However, the risk is extremely small when it comes to the vaccine causing serious harm or death. The most common/serious side effect after one receives the vaccine are brief fainting spells or seizure-like movements. The fainting/seizure-like movements could cause falls, which could result in injuries. As such, if you or someone else feels faint after receiving the vaccination, sit or lie down for around 15 minutes to prevent any falls and injuries.

Mild side effects that most people experience after receiving the meningococcal vaccine is redness, pain, or swelling of the skin/muscles around the area where the shot was received. Some people experience slight fever after receiving the vaccine. Both these side effects last only around one to two days and are typically not that serious.

A serious allergic reaction to the meningococcal vaccine that results in complications or even death is very unlikely, but not impossible. As such, one should be aware of any side effects that occur after receiving the vaccination that is similar to symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms include hives, swelling of the face and/or throat, dizziness, weakness, and/or a quickened heartbeat. Allergic reaction symptoms typically will develop in a few minutes or in around an hour after receiving the vaccine.

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Bacterial Meningitis: Risks and Prevention

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis typically occurs when the bacteria travels through a person’s bloodstream and get into the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, causing it to become inflamed. It is one of the most dangerous types of meningitis because symptoms can become severe very quickly. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can lead to serious complications that could be life-threatening.

Risk Factors of Bacterial Meningitis

Although there is no direct cause of bacterial meningitis, there are some factors that could increase one’s chance of getting bacterial meningitis. Some of these factors are:

  • Not receiving vaccinations

If you are not up to date with your vaccinations, you may have a higher chance of developing meningitis.

  • Age

If you are under 20 years old, you may have a higher chance of developing meningitis.

  • Living in community setting

Because bacteria typically spreads through the respiratory system, bacteria usually spread quicker in places with a larger number of people. Those who live in dorms, military bases, or child care facilities may have a higher chance of developing bacterial meningitis.

  • Pregnancy

Those who are pregnant have a higher chance of contracting a bacteria called listeriosis. This type of bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis. As well, listeriosis can put the unborn infant at risk as the bacteria can pass through the placental barrier and could result in the baby being infected. This could result in the baby being stillborn or die soon after birth.

  • Weak immune system  

A number of things could cause a weak immune system. Factors and/or diseases like AIDS, diabetes, having one’s spleen removed, or taking immunosuppressant drugs could all result in a weaker immune system. Having a weakened immune system makes one more privy to infections, and thus may increase the risk of contracting bacterial meningitis.

Prevent Bacterial Meningitis

Just as there are factors that could put one at risk of bacterial meningitis, there are steps one can take to help prevent themselves from bacterial meningitis.

  • Keeping up to date with vaccinations

The most effective way to prevent bacterial meningitis is to receive vaccinations. There are several vaccinations that one can receive to help reduce the risk of meningitis.  

  • Washing your hands

Washing your hands often can reduce your risk of several diseases, including bacterial meningitis. It is important to wash your hands before you eat, after you use the washroom, after you spend time in public crowds, and after you pet animals. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and that you don’t use antibacterial soap.

  • Practicing good hygiene

Meningitis is typically caused by infections that are contagious. Bacterias that can cause meningitis are usually spread via coughing, sneezing, kissing, and/or sharing things like utensils, toothbrush, lip balms, drinks, food, and/or cigarettes. To prevent bacterial meningitis, it is recommended that you avoid doing these things and practice good hygiene. Additionally, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of bacteria.

  • Maintain a healthy immune system

Because meningitis can occur due to a weak immune system, it is important to take steps to ensure you maintain a strong and healthy immune system. One can do so by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest/sleep.

  • Be careful with food

This is especially true for those who are pregnant. Pregnant people are at a higher risk of contracting listeriosis, which can cause bacterial meningitis and other complications regarding the unborn baby. It is important to cook meat to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 74 degrees Celsius. As well, it is important to keep an eye on what kind of cheese one is eating– those who are pregnant should not consume dairy products made with unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk is more likely to carry listeriosis and/or other bacterias.

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