Hepatitis is a disease of the liver caused by poisons in the blood, such as excessive alcohol, as well as by the viruses Hepatitis A, B, C – and, more rarely, Hep D and E.
Hep A is usually transmitted through infected food and drink or through anal sex and, possibly, oral sex. It lasts a couple of weeks, causing diarrhea and vomiting, and then goes. Vaccines are available and good personal hygiene can help prevent infection.
Hepatitis B and C
Hep B is passed through bodily fluids – semen, mucus or blood – through sex or by sharing needles. It is far, far more infectious than HIV, because it is a more ‘robust’ virus, more able to survive in less optimal conditions. Hep C is mainly transmitted through blood and by sharing needles.
The incubation period for Hep B and C is from between six weeks to six months. Symptoms may then be pronounced or relatively mild – including jaundice, excessive tiredness and darker urine. Usually, the virus then remains in the bloodstream and can lead to liver disease later in life. There is no effective cure, but some people’s immune systems manage to fight the disease successfully.
Hep B can be prevented with a vaccine – a very simple procedure involving a course of three injections. It would be wise to consider this if you have casual sex, even if you are using condoms.