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Hepatitis in Singapore may be caused by any of three different viruses, which are transmitted in different ways. There are vaccines against two of them.

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Hepatitis is a medical term for inflammation of the liver. While there are several possible causes, including alcohol, other drugs, and certain medications, a common cause of hepatitis is viral hepatitis.

There are three viruses that cause nearly all cases of viral hepatitis. They’re referred to as hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). The transmission of each virus is different, although they can all cause the symptoms of liver failure.

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A virus is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Ultimately, HAV is transmitted in the feces of infected people; the virus gets into the water or onto the hands, and is then spread to food and drink.

People infected with hepatitis A have symptoms of liver failure, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin), nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue. There’s usually also a fever. In most people, the body clears out the virus and they recover without long-term effects. However, in some people, there are recurrent bouts of hepatitis from HAV, and in other people, the liver damage from the virus is so severe that they need a liver transplant.

There is a vaccine against hepatitis A. In Singapore, hepatitis A vaccine is highly recommended to certain groups, including those who already have liver problems; however, it’s available to anyone who wants to be protected from this disease.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus is spread through infected bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluid, or saliva. When these fluids come into contact with a mucous membrane (a moist lining, such as the mouth or vagina) or with skin that’s damaged even slightly, the virus can be transmitted. This can occur during sexual activity, or sharing utensils or toothbrushes. Directly injecting the virus into the bloodstream, such as during drug use, tattooing, or in a healthcare setting, is highly likely to transmit the virus.

Hepatitis B causes an acute bout of hepatitis very similar to that of hepatitis A. In most people, they recover and the infection is over. However, in some people, hepatitis B enters a chronic stage. Ongoing liver damage during this stage can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis (hardening of the liver), which is fatal in some people. There are treatments that can help to manage the virus, but they don’t work in every case.

There is a hepatitis B vaccine. In Singapore, hepatitis B vaccine is recommended to intravenous drug users, healthcare workers, and anyone else who wants to be protected. It’s routinely given to all babies.

Hepatitis C

The hepatitis C virus is spread through infected blood or sexual fluids. Unprotected sex, sharing needles, and accidental needlesticks are the most common modes of transmission.

Much like hepatitis B, hepatitis C causes acute hepatitis from which most people recover, and can then enter a chronic stage. About 80% of those with hepatitis C will enter the chronic stage, compared with only 5% of those with hepatitis B. There are treatments that can help and these will sometimes cause the virus to be cured, but they don’t work every time. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.


Hepatitis at Shim Clinic, Singapore