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The myths and the truth about hepatitis A, B and C. 

Can you answer the questions below?

MYTH 1: “A person’s spit came in contact with my eye. Can I get infected?” 

Find out the truth

Low risk. While saliva is not as infectious as blood, transmission of HIV or other diseases can occur via this route. Getting tested would be the safe way to go.

 

MYTH 2: If you are infected, you need to go to the traditional healer and they can “cut your jaundice” and you will get better 

Find out the truth

Always inform your GP or specialist if you are using alternative therapies. Traditional healers may have a short term psychological effect on people, however there is no known evidence which supports these therapies.

MYTH 3: People get infected with hepatitis as they have ‘sinned’. 

Find out the truth

No. Hepatitis is not linked to any moral/ cultural belief associated with sin. Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver, which may result from various causes, both infectious (i.e., viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic organisms) and non-infectious (e.g., alcohol, drugs, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic diseases).

MYTH 4: People living with Hepatitis cannot continue having sex  

Find out the truth

Transmission of hepatitis B via sexual contact can be easily prevented by vaccination or use of barrier type contraception. Transmission of hepatitis C via sexual contact is unusual, however the likelihood increases if there is coinfection with HIV.

MYTH 5: Hepatitis is a genetic/hereditary disease which is passed on from parent to child. 

Find out the truth

Hepatitis is not a genetic disease and is not inherited. Hepatitis B is often transmitted from mother to child during the birthing process. Transmission from the mother can be prevented if her HBV status is known and immunoglobulin is administered within 12 hours of birth.

MYTH 6: Hepatitis B is an advanced liver disease caused by hepatitis A infection; and hepatitis B will develop and further advance to hepatitis C infection. 

Find out the truth

Hepatitis A, B, and C are diseases caused by three different and distinct viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and distinct clinical manifestation. There is no progression from one form of infection to another, although coinfection can occur, hepatitis C infected patients are recommended to be vaccinated for hepatitis A & B.

MYTH 7: You can tell when someone has Hepatitis B/C 

Find out the truth

Most people living with hepatitis B/C do not have symptoms in the early stages, so they are often unaware that they have the disease. There is no way that you can diagnose viral hepatitis by looking at a person. Associated symptoms such as jaundice can be caused by any number of health conditions.

Hepatitis A    

MYTH: “If I got hepatitis A, I am immune to the other forms of hepatitis”

Find out the truth

People who have had hepatitis A get lifelong protection against hepatitis A ONLY. They are still at risk of infection with other forms of hepatitis. There is a vaccine available for hepatitis A & B. There is no immunity to other forms of hepatitis.

Hepatitis B   

MYTH 1: There is no treatment available for chronic hepatitis B.

Find out the truth

The disease is not curable, but it is manageable. Chronic HBV can be treated with a number of effective medications that can suppress, slow or reverse the impact on the liver. All chronically infected patients require life-long monitoring.

MYTH 2: “I was told I am a ‘healthy carrier’ for hepatitis B so I don’t need to worry”. 

Find out the truth

The term healthy carrier is misleading and should not be used. In the past, the term healthy carrier was used to refer to people living with chronic hepatitis B that had no symptoms. This can be confusing as it gives people a false sense of security and deters them from seeking treatment, putting them at risk of serious liver disease and liver cancer.

People living with hepatitis B might look healthy, but they still live with the virus and therefore they should visit a liver specialist every 6-12 months for check-ups.

MYTH 3: Hepatitis B can be transmitted through casual contact such as kissing, handshakes or sharing of meals, water, bowls or utensils with someone who has the disease.

Find out the truth

Truth: The disease can only be contracted on an intimate basis, such as sharing bodily fluids through unprotected sex or contact with blood. HBV can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her child at birth.

HBV is transmitted through activities that involve percutaneous (i.e., puncture through the skin) or mucosal contact with infectious blood or body fluids.

MYTH 4: Hepatitis B vaccine prevents liver cancer and enhances healing in infected patients. 

Find out the truth

The vaccine prevents infection which can lead to cancer. Viral hepatitis is one of many factors that can contribute to the development of liver cancer. The vaccine is ineffective for people already infected and will not lead to healing.

MYTH 5: Patients from countries with high HBV prevalence can wait until age 40 before getting screened.

Find out the truth

Any person from a high-prevalence region of the world, including the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, India and Africa, should be screened and vaccinated, regardless of age.

MYTH 6: “It is not safe to breastfeed if I have Hep B?”

Find out the truth

Yes, it is safe to breastfeed. Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted to the baby through breast milk. Vaccination of the new-born will reduce any risk of mother to child transmission.

MYTH 7: If you are vaccinated, you can still get infected with hepatitis B. 

Find out the truth

In some cases, immunity may wear off over time. If you have been vaccinated and are at risk of exposure to the virus, it may be worthwhile to have a blood test to determine if a booster shot is required.

MYTH 8: “If I am infected by the hepatitis B virus can I still be vaccinated to prevent me from contracting or spreading it?” 

Find out the truth

No vaccination is not necessary for you, but your household contacts or partners should be vaccinated.

MYTH 9: “I got hepatitis B. I was told I can’t get married or have kids.”

Find out the truth

There is no reason why you could not get married or have a family, though it is strongly recommended that those close to you are vaccinated.

MYTH 10: “Kids can get hepatitis B even though they have been vaccinated for it?” 

Find out the truth

After the complete series of vaccines has been given, the chances of getting hepatitis B is very low. No vaccine is %100 effective, a simple blood test will determine the immunity status

MYTH 11: Hepatitis B can be transmitted by mosquito bites: 

Find out the truth

Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted by any insect bites, including mosquitos. Diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes and other insects are not efficient vectors for viral hepatitis. There are no known cases worldwide of transmission by mosquito.

Hepatitis C

MYTH 1: Hepatitis C will go away without treatment

Find out the truth

About 80% of people who are exposed to hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection. A percentage will clear the virus without treatment. For everyone else, though, hepatitis C turns into a chronic, or long-term, disease. And over time, untreated hepatitis C can lead to health problems like cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure.

MYTH 2: Hepatitis C is rare.

Find out the truth

False. An estimated 170 million people worldwide and over 230,000 Australians and particularly in Victoria, 60,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C.

MYTH 3: Hepatitis C Can Be Spread Through Coughing, Kissing, or Shaking Hands

Find out the truth

No. Casual contact with someone who has hepatitis C will not expose you to infection. It is recommended that you not share toothbrushes or shaving equipment as there is a remote possibility of blood from these objects causing transmission.

MYTH 4: Hepatitis C can affect only the liver

Find out the truth

Though it primarily attacks the liver, hepatitis C can also have effects on other parts of the body (brain, blood vessels, pancreas, and kidneys). This is normally when the disease is more progressed.

MYTH 5: Teenagers are most likely to have Hep C

Find out the truth

Approximately 60% of new infections are in people aged 15 – 29 years of age. It is important that young people understand the risk factors and transmission pathways of hepatitis.

MYTH 6: There's a vaccine for Hepatitis C

Find out the truth

Although vaccines are available to prevent the spread of hepatitis A and B, there isn't one developed yet for hepatitis C. If you are living with hepatitis C, experts recommend that you get tested and vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.

MYTH 7: “I have fever and always feel tired. Do I have hepatitis C?” 

Find out the truth

No, There are many health conditions that could cause these symptoms, however if you suspect you may be at risk of hepatitis, consult a doctor.

MYTH 8: "You should disclose your HCV status to everyone"

Find out the truth

It is not incumbent on you to disclose your HCV status, except in rare circumstances (joining armed forces, performing exposure prone procedures, taking health insurance, donating blood, and in some forms of martial arts).

MYTH 9: A diagnosis of HCV is akin to a death sentence

Find out the truth

No, a cure for hepatitis C is readily available, and clinical trials show that in many cases the liver can repair itself once the virus is eliminated.

MYTH 10: HCV takes a long time before it starts to damage your liver

Find out the truth

In some HCV positive people, deterioration can be quite rapid. This of course is not the norm, but can happen. Liver damage can be exacerbated by lifestyle choices such as consuming excessive alcohol or having a high fat diet or little exercise.

MYTH 11: Everyone who has a tattoo or a piercing ends up getting infected with Hepatitis C

Find out the truth

False, Your chances of having problems at a licensed, commercial facility are slim. But tattoos or piercings done with nonsterile instruments can spread hepatitis C.

If you get a tattoo or piercing, look for a facility that has all single-use items like gloves, needles, and ink pots.

MYTH 12: Once you’ve been treated for Hep C, you can’t get it again.

Find out the truth

After successful treatment for hepatitis C, you can still be infected again. Ongoing risk factors such as injecting drug use or non-sterile tattooing can result in reinfection.

MYTH 13: Hepatitis C is a sexually transmitted disease

Find out the truth

Fact: HCV is transmitted by blood-to-blood exposure. However, like many myths, this one is grounded in some truth. Hepatitis C can be transmitted sexually, but the risk is very low. It is difficult to study sexual transmission of HCV, but the majority of studies conducted to date have shown a 0-3% chance of contracting HCV through unprotected sex in stable monogamous heterosexual relationships. Transmission is more likely when blood is present or if there is HIV coinfection