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Hepatitis (A, B & C)

Hepatitis A, B and C are three of the main viruses that cause hepatitis infection. Some people (especially children) do not get ill when infected with the hepatitis viruses.Hepatitis can also be caused by alcohol and other agents. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which stops the liver working properly. If you have a hepatitis illness the symptoms may be:

| Nausea and vomiting | Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice) | Dark urine (pee, mimi) |

Pale faeces (poo, tutae) | Feeling unwell | Lack of energy | Not feeling like eating | Stomach upsets and pains | Fever |General aches and pains |

A person can have hepatitis with no symptoms at all. The hepatitis A, B and C viruses can harm you, and can be passed on to others. If someone is unwell with one or more of the above signs, or may have been in contact with someone with hepatitis, they should talk to a doctor.
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is spread through contact with the faeces (poo, tutae) of an infected person. It can be passed on through:

| Close personal contact Ė including sexual | Poor personal hygiene | Sharing personal things with an infected person (toothbrushes, facecloths, towels, etc) | Contaminated food Ė including shellfish, from infected sewage |

The most infectious period for hepatitis A is usually from two weeks before jaundice shows until one week after. A blood test will show if someone has hepatitis A infection. Thorough hand-washing with soap and water stops the infection from being passed on to other people. General household hygiene, advised at all times,includes:

| Washing hands before and after preparing food | Washing hands before eating | Washing hands after going to the toilet or changing babyís nappy |

Bed-linen, underpants, towels and handkerchiefs used during the illness should be washed in hot water and detergent.
Hepatitis A help: | Close contacts of the person with the hepatitis A virus may be offered an injection of antibodies (gammaglobulin) for temporary protection | Immunisation may be offered to contacts and is available for long-term protection against hepatitis A | Immunisation or gammaglobulin is recommended for travelers to some countries|
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is an illness that your doctor notifies to the Medical Officer of Health in your local public health service. The public health service arranges for follow-up, offers protection to contacts, and checks for a common food source.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is spread through the blood and body fluids of an infected person. It can be passed on through:

| Cuts, scratches, etc | Close contact with blood (and other fluids) from an infected person | Sharing toothbrushes, razors, towels, facecloths | Sharing skin-piercing and injecting needles | Sexual contact without condoms |

The most infectious period is from several weeks before someone is unwell until several weeks Ė or even months Ė later. Some people remain carriers of the hepatitis B virus for life. Carriers of the hepatitis B Virus can spread the disease even though they are not sick. A blood test will show if someone has hepatitis B infection or is a carrier of the virus. Hepatitis B is not passed on through blood transfusions, because blood donated in New Zealand has been tested for the virus for many years.
Hepatitis B Help: People with hepatitis B, and carriers of the virus, can help stop the spread of the disease if they:

| Donít share toothbrushes, razors, facecloths, towels | Donít share skin-piercing and injecting needles | Donít have tattoos, ear-piercing or acupuncture until your doctor says you are free of hepatitis B | Donít donate blood | Avoid sexual contact during the acute illness. Use condoms if you continue to be a carrier | Use condoms to help protect against hepatitis B and C (as well as HIV and other STIs) |

Carriers should also:

| Cover cuts, scratches, etc, straight away | Be careful about medication (check with your doctor about this) | Limit alcohol intake | Ask your doctor if you need regular tests to look for liver disease | Tell your doctor and dentist | Ask your doctor about hepatitis A immunisation |

Immunisations: Immunisation against hepatitis B gives protection from the virus to 95% of people who have the full course of three injections. Household and sexual contacts of an infected person should have a blood test. They can have free hepatitis B immunisations if they are not already immune. Immunisation is of no use to carriers of the hepatitis B virus. 
Children and hepatitis B: New Zealandís child immunisation programme includes (free) hepatitis B immunisation for babies, at ages 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months. It is not too late for your children to have the immunisations even if they have missed them. Children under 16 years old may have free hepatitis B immunisation. Hepatitis B can be passed from infected
mothers to their babies, usually at the time of birth. The baby must be given antibodies and immunisation straight after birth to stop getting infected, as well as at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C (HCV): HCV is spread mainly through contact with the blood of an infected person. It can be passed on through:

| Injecting drugs or sharing injecting gear | Tattooing, ear piercing, body piercing (these may be a risk if equipment is not properly sterilised) | Infection of cuts and scratches directly from an infected personís cuts and scratches Ė this is rare | Sexual intercourse Ė this is rare |

With HCV, a person can be infectious with no symptoms at all. Talk to your doctor if you think you are at risk of HCV. Many people remain chronic carriers of HCV after they have had the illness. Most of these people have HCV for life and need to know how to take care of themselves and others. A blood test will show if someone has HCV infection or is a carrier of the virus. The risk of acquiring HCV from a blood transfusion is much less than 1 case in every 1,000,000 transfusions in New Zealand. No cases have been reported in New Zealand since testing for this was introduced in 1992.
HCV help: If you do have HCV, or are a chronic carrier:

| Donít share toothbrushes, razors, facecloths, towels | Donít share needles or other injecting gear Ė you could re-infect yourself, as well as infecting others | Do not donate blood |

Ask your doctor about: | alcohol harming your liver | infection risks during pregnancy and birth | treatment options | hepatitis B and hepatitis A | immunisations | There is no vaccine for immunisation against HCV. Talk to your doctor if your are concerned about Hepatitis C |
ABC Help:  General hygiene practices:

| Wash hands before and after preparing food | Wash hands before eating | Wash hands after going to the toilet or changing babyís nappy | Avoid contact with peopleís blood | Donít share personal items or injecting gear | Use condoms |

Talk to your doctor about hepatitis
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