How serious is hepatitis? My doctor tells me I have the A form and not the B. What is the difference?
Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver. There are several different forms, and the B form is one of the worst, as it can lead to a slow degeneration of the liver over many years.
The A form is also a nasty disease, but most patients totally recover within a few weeks or months. The different forms of hepatitis are produced by different viruses. They can only be separated by special blood tests done by pathologists.
In the A form, you probably ate food prepared by, or came into close contact with, someone who already had hepatitis A. That person may have had the early stages of the disease, a very mild form of the disease, or was a long-term carrier of the virus. Once the virus entered your gut, it migrated to the liver, and started multiplying rapidly. The damaged liver cells could no longer work effectively, and you became ill, feverish and yellow.
There is no specific treatment available other than rest, time and a high-carbohydrate diet. Alcohol must be avoided for a long time after the disease is cured. Any close contacts with a person suffering from hepatitis A can receive an immunoglobulin injection to give them immediate short-term protection from the disease. For long term protection it is necessary to have a specific hepatitis A vaccination, which is given in two doses, 6 to 12 months apart.
There is a series of three injections available to protect you long-term against hepatitis B. The B form can only be caught by having sex with someone who has hepatitis B, or by contaminating your blood with the saliva (eg. on an open wound) or blood (eg. shared needle in drug users) of a victim.
Could you please explain the symptoms, causes and treatment of an illness described as ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’?
Hand, foot and mouth disease has nothing to do with the foot and mouth disease that occurs in some animals.
It is a viral infection, caused by the Coxsackie virus, that affects virtually every child before the age of five years, but in most children the disease is so mild that its symptoms are overlooked.
In severe cases the virus causes a moderate fever and a day or two of being unwell, followed by the appearance of red patches and ulcers in the mouth, and tiny blisters on the soles of the feet and palms of the hand. All these problems settle within a week, and the only treatment necessary is paracetamol for the fever and some soothing gel for the mouth ulcers.
The infection often occurs in epidemics, spreading rapidly through a family or kindergarten. The incubation period (time from contacting a child with the disease until the disease becomes apparent in another child) is three to seven days.