Skip to main content

Military Health System

What to Know About Hepatitis - its Treatment, and Prevention

Image of picture of a liver. Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. There are several types of the disease that are transmitted through different sources. (Courtesy of CDC)

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

A bad liver can be a potentially fatal problem.

The liver's primary function is to filter out toxic substances from your blood and to produce the essential proteins that allow the body to function.

But liver functions can be damaged or impaired - especially by unhealthy habits like excessive alcohol use, drug use or obesity.

In advance of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, we wanted to learn more about liver disease -- the different types, and how to prevent them and protect yourself and your loved ones – so we spoke with Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Brendan Graham, chief of pathology at Womack Army Medical Center, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Graham explained there are several varieties of the disease which can be caused by different factors, including:

  • Alcoholic Hepatitis (caused by excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Viral Hepatitis (caused by infection from viruses that target the liver)
  • Drug-induced hepatitis (caused by certain medications like acetaminophen or dietary supplements)
  • Steatohepatitis, or fatty-liver disease (caused by being overweight or obese)

All of the hepatitis variants can be very dangerous.

"All viral hepatitis can cause abdominal pain and jaundice - the yellowing of the skin and buildup of bilirubin - in the acute stage," said Graham. "Hepatitis that persists can lead to acute liver failure, which can lead to rapid coma and death as the body loses the capacity to process toxic materials in the blood or produce necessary proteins, or chronic liver failure, where the body gradually loses the ability to process toxins and produce proteins, causing numerous medical complications and leading to eventual death due to liver failure."

Liver failure can be either acute, meaning it is brought on suddenly by a specific event, or it can be chronic, which develops over time.

Graham said that "the types of hepatitis that lead to acute liver failure include drug-induced hepatitis - which can be caused by acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol - and certain types of infectious hepatitis, such as viral hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV)".

Similarly, he said the types of hepatitis that lead to chronic liver failure include alcoholic hepatitis, fatty-liver disease, and certain types of viral hepatitis, such as those caused by the hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses.

Knowing the difference is important because it allows individuals to avoid death due to acute liver failure, said Graham. Additionally, most of the types of hepatitis that cause chronic liver failure are due to lifestyle choices, such as excessive alcohol use and obesity, making this type of hepatitis largely avoidable through lifestyle modifications.

"Infectious causes of hepatitis can be transmitted to other individuals by means of blood, sexual contact, and feces," added Graham. "Knowledge of these routes of transmission allow individuals to refrain from activities that could result in transmission or enact lifestyle modifications or public health measures that could reduce the risk or prevent transmission."

Graham added: "The multiple medical complications that come with chronic liver failure secondary to chronic hepatitis require significant medical care, numerous doctor visits, and hospitalizations to treat complications like excessive bleeding and excessive swelling."

It can also affect service members' readiness.

"Service members with chronic liver failure secondary to chronic hepatitis are non-deployable as a result of these complications and the significant medical care they require," he said. "Additionally, service members with viral hepatitis that are not yet in liver failure put their fellow service members at risk of contracting the virus due to exposure to the infected individual's blood in the course of providing medical care to an injured, infected individual or receiving a battlefield blood transfusion from an infected individual."

In the United States, the most common and severe types of viral hepatitis are those caused by HAV, HBV, and HCV.

"Chronic hepatitis leading to liver failure is an almost entirely preventable disease," said Graham. "Maintaining a healthy weight, consuming alcohol in moderation, and avoiding high-risk activities like intravenous drug use and sharing injection needles can prevent the vast majority of chronic hepatitis."

Additionally, he said there are new medical therapies for hepatitis C that can effectively cure the disease. "If an individual is at risk for having contracted hepatitis C, treatment with these drugs early in the course of infection can prevent the chronic liver inflammation that leads to liver failure."

Below is more information on the symptoms and the type of the disease each virus causes:

Symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Diarrhea (HAV only)

Hepatitis A:

  • Transmitted through close person-to-person and sexual contact with an infected person as well as by ingesting contaminated food and/or water.
  • Shed through infected feces – people who practice inadequate hygiene can contaminate prepared food with the virus and spread it to others.
  • This is the type of viral hepatitis linked to large outbreaks at a single restaurant or in a home.
  • Has an incubation period of 15-50 days, with an average of 28 days.

Hepatitis B:

  • Primarily transmitted from infected mothers to their babies during childbirth, through sexual contact with an infected individual, and through contact with an infected individual's blood, such as by sharing infected needles, syringes, or other injection-drug equipment.
  • Has an incubation period of 60-150 days, with an average of 90 days.

Hepatitis C:

  • Primarily transmitted through contact with an infected individual's blood, such as by sharing needles, syringes, and other injection-drug equipment. Also transmissible through sexual contact and from mothers to babies during childbirth.
  • Is much less common than the hepatitis B virus.
  • For more than half of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection, which can result in serious, even life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • People with chronic hepatitis C can often have no symptoms and don't feel sick.
  • Incubation period of 14-182 days, with an average range of 14-84 days.

For more information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention resources and/or talk to your MHS provider.

You also may be interested in...

Toxicologists Hold Vital Role in Protecting DOD Workforce

Article Around MHS
1/20/2023
Toxicologist working in laboratory

Among the DOD's priorities, protecting warfighters from enemy combatants and weapons is critical. But there are other scenarios, when undetected, that pose threat to the health of our military. Find out why that makes the job of a DOD toxicologists so important.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

Public Health Nutritionist Shares Strategies, Resources for Meeting New Year Weight Loss Goals

Article Around MHS
1/12/2023
healthy food infographic

Don't give up on your 2023 resolution to lose weight! We've gathered some unique tips, tools, and strategies to help you stay the course and meet your goals.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Nutritional Fitness

Protect Yourself With Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

Article Around MHS
12/19/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

"Tis the season, and respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Learn critical health guidance about the viral triple threat of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, and the commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunization Tool Kit | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Immunization Healthcare Division

Public Health Nurses: Heroes for Health

Article Around MHS
12/14/2022
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tracy R. Kraus head shot

In a world where public health is constantly being challenged, the need for front-line contenders in the fight against threats is rapidly increasing. The work of the Public Health Nurse is nothing short of heroic. Learn more about the extraordinary dedication and arduous work it takes for Public Health Nurses to keep the warfighter population healthy and fit to fight and win.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

Big Hearts from Small, Small Places

Article Around MHS
12/13/2022
Military personnel demonstrating CPR

Sailors stand in a red and white metal space filled with folded wheelchairs and various medical equipment, each paired with a plastic torso and dummy infant at their feet. All eyes are fixed on the only voice in the room. The voice, carefully but clearly asking questions and giving out instructions, comes from a woman adorned in blue coveralls with her dark hair pulled back in a neat bun. U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd class Johana Chi, from a small town in El Salvador, teaches CPR.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

New Work Group Looks at Preventive Health Measures for Service Members

Article Around MHS
12/9/2022
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Christopher Mohan

The U.S. Coast Guard is now prioritizing a review of health-related data to determine how to reduce illness and injuries within the workforce. This shift is prompted by a policy update within the Coast Guard Medical Manual COMDTINST 6000.7, as well as the new Population Health Optimization Work Group that will impact members, civilians, dependents, and retirees.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Lung Cancer Leading Cause of Cancer Death

Article
11/22/2022
 U.S Navy MRI technologist behind a computer screen with a magnetic resonance machine in the background.

With November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, be aware of symptoms, causes, and steps to take if you think you need screening.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Decreases to 45

Article
11/22/2022
A patient sits in an office with while a health care provider talks to her.

Though the overall death rate from colorectal cancers have been on the decline in recent years, it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

What You Should Know About RSV: Symptoms, Prevention, Care

Article Around MHS
11/14/2022
infant smiling

You may have heard of a virus called respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. But do you know how serious it is and who is most at risk? Learn the signs, and how quickly RSV can put patients at risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and even death.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental

Enhancing Public Health Interoperability for the Joint Force

Article Around MHS
11/10/2022
Army Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hall teaches a class

Members of Army Public Health Command Europe strengthened their partnership with sister services in a U.S. Air Force led Public Health Emergency Management training exercise held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Recommended Content:

Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief | Public Health

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Holds Town Hall in Advance of DHA Transition

Article Around MHS
10/24/2022
Military personnel speaks at NMCPHS town hall event

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center held a town hall meeting on Oct. 12 at their Portsmouth, Virginia, headquarters, in advance of their transition to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Public Health directorate.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Military Health System Transformation

DHA Turns 9: 'Now Fully Responsible for Health Care Delivery' in DOD

Article
10/6/2022
Four DHA personnel, including DHA Director Place, center, cut a birthday cake with a sword to celebrate DHA's ninth birthday. Oct. 1, 2022.

Defense Health Agency celebrates its 9th year; continues to grow military medical mission.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Military Health System Transformation | Public Health

Get Your Flu Shot

Video
10/4/2022
Get Your Flu Shot

Rear Adm. Brandon L. Taylor, Director of DHA Public Health, discusses how vaccines greatly reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." Lets us join Rear Adm. Taylor this year to get informed on how vaccines can minimize the dangers of flu.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare Division | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 10 - October 2022

Report
10/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Surveillance trends for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens among U.S. Military Health System Beneficiaries, Sept. 27, 2020 – Oct. 2,2021; Establishment of SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance within the MHS during March 1 – Dec. 31 2020; Suicide behavior among heterosexual, lesbian/gay, and bisexual active component service members in the U.S. Armed Forces; Brief report: Phase I results using the Virtual Pooled Registry Cancer Linkage system (VPR-CLS) for military cancer surveillance.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 09 - September 2022

Report
9/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Surveillance trends for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens among U.S. Military Health System Beneficiaries, Sept. 27, 2020 – Oct. 2,2021; Establishment of SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance within the MHS during March 1 – Dec. 31 2020; Suicide behavior among heterosexual, lesbian/gay, and bisexual active component service members in the U.S. Armed Forces; Brief report: Phase I results using the Virtual Pooled Registry Cancer Linkage system (VPR-CLS) for military cancer surveillance.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 32
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 24, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery