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Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can have different causes. Viral hepatitis is caused by five different types of viruses, type A to type E. However, types A, B and C are the most common. The prognosis includes liver cancer, cirrhosis, extreme fatigue, vertigo and jaundice.

Hepatitis A is transmitted via the faeco-oral route or through contaminated water or food. It does not lead to chronic long term liver disease.

Hepatitis B is transmitted via sexual contact, blood-to-blood contact such as infected needles and from mother-to-child during childbirth. It leads to chronic disease, usually liver cirrhosis and cancer. Symptoms include aches and pains, abdominal discomfort and hematuria. Once contracted 95% of adults will clear the virus and not develop chronic hepatitis B. There are two drug treatments, i.e. anti-viral medication, and peginterferon alfa or interferon alfa exhibiting immune-modulatory properties.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which is transmitted through infected needles or contaminated equipment. Although it is slow acting, it results in serious disease such as liver cancer.

Hepatitis D is transmitted through mucosal contact with infectious blood and can be acquired either as a co-infection with hepatitis B virus or as superinfection in people with hepatitis B virus infection. On the other hand, hepatitis E, like type A, is transmitted via the faeco-oral route.

As Desidius Erasmus said, Prevention is better than cure. Preventive measures are vital to combat these viruses. Vaccination is available against hepatitis A and B. Vaccines are not yet available for hepatitis C although some candidate vaccines are being studied. Sanitising hands and avoiding contaminated water are also essential at combating viral hepatitis.

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