Hepatitis is a disease that once saw a significant decline in the number of cases per year. Surprisingly, in 2018 the United States saw a significant increase in hepatitis cases and outbreaks across the nation. To understand why that increase occurred you have to realize what hepatitis is, what the symptoms are, and how it’s acquired. Just like with any outbreak of illness, knowledge, and prevention are the best forms of treatment.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis comes in three forms – hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. while each form affects the body differently, they are all a form of liver infection. Hepatitis A is most commonly acquired from contaminated food or water. Most widely, international travelers and those who frequently eat or drink in unsanitary conditions are affected. It can also be spread from person to person through a fecal-oral routine, but that is much less common. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C have seen a significant increase in cases in recent years as well. Hepatitis B and C are most commonly spread through the opioid and drug epidemic sweeping across the nation. Sharing needles and supplies for injectable opioids cause the disease to be spread from one person to another via their blood.

What Are the Symptoms?

The best prevention of hepatitis A is vaccination, especially if you plan to travel internationally. Some of the symptoms of hepatitis A include:
• Fatigue
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Loss of appetite
• Dark urine
• Yellowing of the skin or eyes
• Sore joints and muscles
Hepatitis B and C can present similar symptoms, but often no signs are present at all. The lack of symptoms leads to a majority of sufferers not knowing that they have the infection and then unknowingly spreading it to those around them. 2018 saw an increase in pregnant women suffering from hepatitis B and C as well, which can be covered from mother to child. Not being aware of the condition means not seeking treatment and allowing the state to progress. In some cases, it can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and other life-threatening conditions.

Controlling the Problem

Getting the hepatitis problem under control once again requires the general public to be informed and protect themselves. Receiving the proper vaccinations and precautions to prevent hepatitis A is vital. Those using injectable opioids should never share needles or supplies with those around them, even if they show no symptoms of being ill. Finally, if you suspect you’re suffering from hepatitis, you should get tested and begin treatment right away.