Ask Bhola Da

Hello friends. Wish the New Year has been a good start to your life. Rubbing away the sorrows and pains of 2010 we are looking ahead at a bright new 2011. My sincerest prayers for all my readers: may the Almighty make your life even better with every passing day. However your health is in your hands and you must take care of it.

Viruses are wonderful creatures, aren’t they? On one hand we do not know if we can call them living or non living, on the other they keep subterfuging human efforts to disarm them. One virus especially has made it impossible for scientists across the globe to have a “chain ki neend”. That’s the human immunodeficiency virus(HIV). Actually, these viruses belong to a class called retroviruses which have RNA as their genetic material instead of the universal DNA (we can have an issue on retroviruses some other time, right now I wish to talk about a specific retrovirus). Another ssRNA virus called the Hepatitis A virus is responsible for the fatal liver disease.

Q. What is Hepatitis A? Is it a sexually transmitted disease?

A: Hepatitis is a chronic inflammation of the liver. It is caused by the infection with hepatitis A virus or HAV. Mainly spread through contaminated food and water, it can also spread through direct contact with the patient. The virus is mainly present in the stool of the infected person.

Hepatitis A is also classified under sexually transmitted infection because it can be passed on form a person to another by sexual intercourse, especially anal intercourse and rimming.


Q. What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

A: The hepatitis virus actually kills and damages liver cells. Symptoms of hepatitis appear the same as that of flu, hence resulting in wrong diagnosis several times. Some patients show no symptoms at all for as many as 6 weeks. However, in almost 80% of the sufferers the symptoms include mild fever, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite. Symptoms of jaundice may also set in with excessive loss of bile through urine.


Q. What is the diagnosis for Hepatitis A?

A: The HAV antigen is countered by the body with specific IgM antibodies. Hence the blood IgM level proves to be a good benchmark for hepatitis infection measurements. After the incubation period of 2 weeks the level of IgM will surely rise in the blood. Blood profiling for other indicators of infection (like leucocyte count etc.) are also done as preliminary exercise.

Another diagnosis for the disease is perhaps Liver Function Tests. The serum concentrations of enzymes like SGPT, SGOT and also biochemical analysis of serum bilirubin, serum cholesterol etc. serve to give us an insight into the damage caused to the liver. These are non specific and have to be supported with more specific tests for HAV.


Q. How can the disease be prevented?

A: Vaccines against hepatitis virus are now available. Vaccination is a solution to the menace of this virus. Personal hygiene and sanitation measures also keep the virus away. Eating healthy and keeping yourself away from unhygienic environment just helps you in this feat. And since HAV can be spread sexually, care must be taken to avoid any unsafe experience. Fun should not come at the cost of life. There is no treatment of Hepatitis A. Hence, all we can do is keep the virus at bay.

Stay safe, practice safe sex. Enjoy the New Year. Toodles.