A recent hepatitis outbreak in Nevada has been linked to Real Water alkaline water, and an investigation is currently underway. The illness resulted in multiple people having to be hospitalized for acute liver failure. While those who were infected have recovered, this incident has raised quite a few questions regarding hepatitis and foodborne illness.
How many types of hepatitis are there?
There are five types of hepatitis; hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. While they can all vary in terms of symptoms, causes and severity, the common link between all hepatitis diagnoses is the inflammation of the liver, which can be dangerous. This vital organ is necessary for metabolism and breaking down food in the digestive system.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
Not all cases of hepatitis will result in liver failure, assuming proper treatment is acquired. There are common symptoms that are less severe, such as:
- Yellow eyes
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Clay or grey-colored stool
How are different types of hepatitis spread?
- Hepatitis A is spread by either direct contact with an infected person’s feces or by indirect fecal contamination of food or water. There is a vaccine to prevent against infection.
- Hepatitis B is spread through blood, urine, semen or from a mother to her infant after childbirth. Hepatitis B can live outside of the body for at least seven days, and will still be capable of causing an infection during that time. A blood test is needed for diagnosis, and vaccinations are available to protect people at high risk for infection.
- Hepatitis C is most commonly spread by exposure to contaminated blood or needles. The virus can survive outside of the body for up to four days. Like hepatitis B, a blood test is needed for diagnosis. Both hepatitis B and C increase a person’s risk for liver cancer. On the bright side, more than 90% of people who have a chronic hepatitis C infection can be cured within eight to 12 weeks of treatment with oral medication.
- Hepatitis D is usually developed within the population of people who have contracted hepatitis B. It is known as ‘delta hepatitis’ and is uncommon in the United States.
- Hepatitis E is found in underdeveloped areas of the world, and is spread by the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis E causes acute hepatitis, which usually goes away on its own. It can be more dangerous in pregnant women, who are at an increased risk of liver failure and death. Hepatitis E does not cause chronic infection.
What can I do to prevent contracting hepatitis?
As always, good health and hygiene (e.g. hand washing), practicing safe sex and being careful around any objects contaminated with blood can help stop the spread of hepatitis. However, hepatitis A can be spread through food manufacturers, farmer’s markets, restaurants and more, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the source of the infection.
What should I do if I think I’ve been infected?
Health is your number one priority, so you should call your doctor if you think that you have contracted hepatitis. If you have been infected, the Health Department will likely conduct an investigation and will reach out to you to in an effort to trace the illness back to the person or people who may have infected you, as it will help to increase public safety. This is especially important with cases of hepatitis A which arise from contaminated food products. To contact the CDC, visit this link.
Hepatitis can be deadly if not treated. If you have suffered a foodborne illness through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Allen & Allen today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307. We look forward to hearing about your unique situation.