The word hepatitis refers to any inflammation of the liver — the irritation or swelling of the liver cells from any cause.
It can be acute (inflammation of the liver that presents with sickness — jaundice, fever, vomiting) or chronic (inflammation of the liver that lasts more than six months, but essentially showing no symptoms).
Usually caused by a group of viruses known as the “hepatotropic” (liver directed) viruses, including A, B, C, D and E.
Other viruses may also cause it, such as the varicella virus that causes chicken pox. SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19 may injure the liver, too.
Other causes include drugs and alcohol abuse, fat buildup in the liver (fatty liver hepatitis) or an autoimmune process in which a person’s body makes antibodies that attack the liver (autoimmune hepatitis).
Hepatitis A and E are self-limiting diseases (i.e. go away on their own) and require no specific antiviral medications.
For Hepatitis B and C, effective medications are available.
Hepatitis B and C together are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year.
In 2016, 194 governments across the globe adopted WHO’s global strategy which aims at eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.