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World Hepatitis Day on July 28th: Is sex safe with an infected person?

Viral hepatitis has become one of the leading causes of death and disability across the globe. © Shutterstock

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It is a viral disease that can be transmitted via sex. Read on to know how you can take precautions to avoid this disease on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day.

Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of your liver, the largest organ in your body. The liver digests food, stores energy and removes poisons. Inflammation can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain. Dark-coloured urine and yellowing of skin and eyes are also symptoms of hepatitis. If left untreated, it can lead to liver cirrhosis and also liver cancer. On this World Hepatitis Day, celebrated every year on July 28, let us talk about viral hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis, the most common form of liver disease, spreads though contaminated food or sharing of hypodermic needles. It can be classified as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

According to researchers from the Imperial College London, viral hepatitis has become one of the leading causes of death and disability across the globe. It has killed at least as many people annually as TB, malaria or HIV/AIDS, they say. They came to this conclusion after analysing data from 183 countries collected between 1990 and 2013. The findings of this study was published in The Lancet.

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And, the worst thing is that viral hepatitis can spread through sexual contact. On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, here's what you need to know to protect yourself.

WORLD HEPATITIS DAY: CAN YOU GET HEPATITIS VIA SEX?

Yes, you can get hepatitis if you have sex with an infected person. Let us take a look at the dangers of indulging in sexual activities with a person infected with the hepatitis virus.

Hepatitis A and sex

On this World Hepatitis Day, let us how hepatitis A spreads. It can spread via food contaminated with faecal matter. Direct oral-anal contact or contact with fingers or objects that have been in or near the anus of an infected person can cause this condition. Infection can happen even if a microscopic amount of virus-laden faeces gets into the mouth.

Transmission can occur from any sexual activity with an infected person. In fact, even the use of use of condoms may not prevent Hepatitis A transmission. Vaccination is the only way to prevent Hepatitis A transmission.

Hepatitis B and sex

This is transmitted sexually. In fact, if you have sex with an infected person, you may get it for certain. It is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. This virus is present in vaginal secretions, saliva and semen. Oral and anal sex, irrespective of whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, can transmit the virus. But you cannot get it if you hold hands or give and receive a hug.

Transmission is primarily among unvaccinated adults who have multiple sex partners. People who have sex with people suffering from chronic Hepatitis B infection are at risk. Also, homosexual men are 10 to 15 times more likely to be infected with hepatitis B.

Researchers from Infectious Diseases Society of America documented a case of hepatitis B virus transmission between two patients at a dentist's office in the United States. The study says that this is really rare. But universal vaccination against the virus could have prevented both cases. This was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Another study by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine says prolonged use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can help. They used this therapy to treat people infected with both HIV and hepatitis B virus. Researchers found that they were better able to control the hepatitis B infection. It also delayed or prevented liver complications. This study was published in HIV Clinical Trials.

Hepatitis C and sex

It is not very common, but this can also be transmitted sexually. If you come in contact with an infected person's blood, you may get this disease. It is especially dangerous if you have any cuts or sores in your genital area. Men might get it from menstruating women. It is very common in people who are sexually promiscuous.

Individuals infected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have nothing to fear from sex in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Transmission of HCV from an infected partner during sex is rare, says a research published in Hepatology, the journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

If you have a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, indulge in sex with multiple partners or like rough sex, you might be at risk. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding the disease. Don't share needles and avoid sex with unknown people. As with all sexually transmitted diseases, here also it depends on a person's behaviour and not gender. But some studies say that it is easier for a woman to contract this disease sexually than a man.

A study by researchers from Imperial College London, UK, says, a comprehensive package of prevention, screening and treatment interventions could avert 15.1 million new hepatitis C infections. It can also prevent 1.5 million cirrhosis and liver cancer deaths globally by 2030. The study, published in The Lancet, says This is equal to an 80 per cent reduction in incidence and a 60 per cent decrease in deaths compared with 2015. This is the first study to model hepatitis C interventions globally.

World Hepatitis Day: A few sexual acts to avoid

On this World Hepatitis Day, it is important that you know to avoid sexual activity that might cause abrasions and cuts. Anal sex is more risky than vaginal sex, which is more risky than oral sex. Also avoid oral-anal contact. If you have viral hepatitis or a partner who is infected, you must use a condom or a female condom. The idea is to save put a barrier between you and your partner's body fluids and blood. Also, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. As yet, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

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