Hepatitis means inflammation (itis) of the liver (hepar). Inflammation is defined as irritation or swelling of the liver cells. There are many forms of hepatitis, including viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis and toxin induced hepatitis.
It is estimated that around 250 million people world-wide are affected by hepatitis C and around 400 million are chronic carriers of hepatitis B. It is an enormous health issue. Hepatitis is so common a group of diseases that you probably know people with it even though they probably haven't told you they have it.
Stigma of Hepatitis
There is a stigma attached to certain types of hepatitis especially when the person has the potential to infect others. However, when people are aware that they are potentially infectious, just a few simple precautions can avoid them passing it to others. Often people who know they have hepatitis just think it is simpler to avoid the ignorance of others and the knock on effects it can have on their family. They keep it between themselves and the medical team who provide their healthcare.
3 Stages of Hepatitis
There are 3 stages of hepatitis. The acute stage, the chronic and for a few very unlucky people a fulminant stage of hepatitis.
Brief History of Hepatitis
Hepatitis is believed to have existed in some form since ancient times. It is known, for example, that a diseases existed that affected the liver and caused yellowing of the skin. In 1963 there was a major breakthrough which identified serum hepatitis and its cause, named the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Ten years later the cause of infectious hepatitis was found and named the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and although scientists knew other viruses existed it was not until 1989 that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was isolated. Although the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) was known about from the mid 1970s, it was only in the late 1980s -1990 that it was understood to exist only in the presence of hepatitis B. In 1990 hepatitis E virus (HEV) and in 1995, Hepatitis G virus (HGV), were identified. Other viruses, hepatitis F virus (HFV) and transfusion transmission virus (TTV), are thought to exist, but as yet unproven.
Palmer, Mellisa. Hepatitis Liver Disease. What you need to know. New York: Avery Publishing Group, 2000.
CDC Center for Disease Control,
WHO World Health Organization