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Hepatitis is a viral inflammation of the liver. There are five forms of the disease, some treatable and others with only limited treatment options. Because of the way in which some forms of the disease are spread, children in developing nations or children who live in poverty are especially susceptible to it.
Hepatitis can be transmitted a number of ways. Drinking water or eating food contaminated with feces is the most common way Hepatitis A is transmitted. Type B is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, and so is D. Similar to A, Hepatitis E is transmitted by tainted food or water.
For children growing up in poverty, exposure to hepatitis is all too prevalent, and the consequences can be devastating. Here are some facts to keep in mind:
Hepatitis A tends to strike in localized epidemics
Vaccinations are available for Hepatitis A
Some 90% of babies infected by Hepatitis B at birth develop chronic infections
Up to a quarter of those with Hepatitis B die from chronic liver disease
Some 240 million people have a chronic Hepatitis B infection
Up to 1/3 of chronic Hepatitis B infections begin in childhood
Hepatitis B kills close to 700,000 people a year, largely due to liver cancer and cirrhosis
A vaccine first made available in 1982 is 95% effective in preventing infections
Hepatitis B is most prevalent in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by the Middle East and Indian subcontinent.
Hepatitis B can survive outside the body and remain communicable for 7 days
Up to 50% of children who are infected will develop chronic conditions
From the perspective of those involved in international adoption and/or prospective parents hoping to adopt, knowing about treatment options is vital. Children who have been exposed to Hepatitis need love and care as much as anyone else. There are also special considerations beyond the usual parenting concerns to keep in mind. They include:
Treatment differs depending on the type of a Hepatitis a child has
Most people who have Hepatitis A and E will recover in just weeks
Children can be immunized against Hepatitis A and B
A vaccine for Hepatitis E exists, but is only available in China
Some types, such as B, require lifelong monitoring if contracted
Hepatitis B treatment options for very young children may be limited until they get to be about 12
Because Hepatitis is a disease of the liver, care must be taken with alcohol, pain medication, and other things that impact liver function
Hepatitis can be a serious illness, especially when contracted by children, but with days like
World Hepatitis Day that falls on July 28 every year, the end goal is to educate about medication and care so viral Hepatitis can be eliminated as a global threat within our lifetime.
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