Cases of food and water-borne hepatitis infections — Hepatitis variants A and E — usually see a spike during the monsoon season due to increase in contamination of water in supply lines and storage tanks.
“Although, we haven’t seen any major spike in water-borne hepatitis till now, but usually the numbers go up during this season. It is, however, easy to avoid the infections. All you need to do is shun food from road-side stalls and drink filtered water,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant of internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.
Unlike the blood-borne Hepatitis B and C, Hepatitis A and E are usually self-limiting and resolve within days or a couple of weeks and have no long-term impact. However, in some serious cases, it may lead to acute liver failure.
According to estimates, one in a thousand children and one in a hundred adults may end up needing a liver transplant because of acute liver failure caused by a severe bout of water-borne hepatitis.
The symptoms of water-borne hepatitis include acute fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, jaundice (yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes) and dark coloured urine.
“Patients coming in with symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea must also get tested for Hepatitis. There are chances that the symptoms be confused for malaria or typhoid initially. In such cases, doctors might prescribe paracetamol, which get metabolized in the liver, putting additional pressure on the diseased organ,” said SK Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS).
Currently, there is one vaccine available against Hepatitis A. “The vaccine is effective but whether or not it should be prescribed is debatable. It is believed that the vaccine is given to people who have chronic liver diseases, as a percentage of their liver does not work and hepatitis adds to the problem. However, in an AIIMS study we saw that more than 98% of chronic liver patients already had 98% immunity to Hepatitis A,” said Dr Anoop Saraya, head of the department of gastroenterology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
In another study, of 12-year-old school children, the department of gastroenterology found that the level of immunity was 98.4%. “The vaccine is only needed if a person does not have immunity and someone in the house has the disease,” he said.