Sunday, August 7, 2011

Immunization against Liver Diseases

Preventive care for liver disease has made good progress as a result of which vaccines have been developed for immunization against liver diseases like Hepatitis A, B and D. It may be noted that Immunization against Hepatitis B protects one from Hepatitis D too, though no specific vaccine exists for the latter.

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It is a serious liver disease wherein the virus is transmitted through contaminated food and contaminated water. The virus may be passed on to you by someone infected with it if and when she/he doesn’t wash her/his hands well after clearing bowels and touches or prepares something that is then eaten by you.
Fortunately, one can protect oneself from Hepatitis A by means of vaccination that prevents one from contracting the disease or from being a carrier.
It is imperative to get oneself vaccinated prior to travelling into countries that pose a high risk of contracting Hepatitis A as a result of improper handling or preparation of food or insufficient sewage and water purification systems. In the past, outbreak of Hepatitis A has also been reported from regions normally perceived as low risk, like North America. Those working in day-care centers, especially those who diaper infants, must also immunize themselves against Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A vaccines are highly effective and adverse reactions are insignificant in intensity and duration, normally being pain, inflammation or soreness at the site of injection.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and is 100 times more contagious than the AIDS virus. It is passed on through infected blood or body fluids or during sexual contact with an infected person. Hepatitis B does not spread by casual contact or by food or water. Three injections of this vaccine are required to be taken over a six month duration for effective protection. High risk groups are those exposed to blood or body fluids- like healthcare professionals, firefighters, police-, sex partners of Hepatitis B carriers and babies born to Hepatitis B carriers. Another high risk group is of those immigrating from countries where Hepatitis B is a fairly common disease, viz. Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe and the Pacific Islands.
Hepatitis B vaccines are also available in formulations made specifically for adults or for pediatric use. A combined vaccine for both Hepatitis A and B is also available. These vaccines are well accepted by all age groups and cause few, mild reactions like pain and soreness at the injection site and a slight temperature.

Post-exposure Prophylaxis
In case one is exposed to infected blood or body fluids in the recent past, say within a week, immediate immunization with the Hepatitis B immune globulin may be effective in preventing onset of the disease.

Hepatitis C
No vaccine for Hepatitis C exists presently though several are under development. Nonetheless, patients with chronic liver disease including Hepatitis C should get themselves immunized against both Hepatitis A and B. A second infection by either of these viruses can cause grave complications and aggravate liver damage considerably. For patients in advanced stages of Hepatitis C it is recommended to have drug treatment closely assessed by the physician.

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