The liver is a complex organ that holds
approximately 13 percent of a person's blood supply
at any one time and performs an estimated 500
The liver works round the clock and is involved with
four basic, but important, functions:
Regulating, synthesising and secreting glucose,
proteins, bile and lipids.
Storing glucose, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and
K), vitamins B6 and B12, and minerals (copper and
Purifying, transforming and clearing the blood of
Fighting infections, particularly those arising
from the bowel.
Diseases can damage the liver, disrupting its
functions and resulting in serious health problems.
Hepatitis is one of the many diseases that can
affect the liver.
The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is highly contagious and
can lead to death, with case-fatality rates of
0.3-0.6 percent, as reported through the National
Diseases Surveillance System, with the rate rising
to 1.8 percent in those above 50 years of age.
The hepatitis A virus is commonly found in the stool
of an infected person and is spread through the
faecal-oral route through person-to person contact
or via contaminated food and water.
Simple everyday activities pose a serious threat for
infection because contamination can occur through
household or sexual contact with an infected person
, children and employees in day-care centres, as
well as with those who travel abroad.
The hepatitis B virus is highly infectious and can
result in life-long infection, cirrhosis (scarring)
of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and even
Although the disease is preventable, approximately
one million people die from hepatitis B every year
worldwide. Every minute, one or two chronic
hepatitis B deaths are recorded in the Western
Pacific and South-East Asia.
is transmitted through contact with blood or bodily
fluids of an infected person. Most commonly, a
person is infected through perinatal transmission,
child-to-child transmission, unsafe injections and
transfusions, as well as sexual contact.
For hepatitis B, however, the symptoms do not always
present themselves and the danger lies in the fact
that some people do not even know they are carrying
Because hepatitis A and B can have devastating
outcomes, it is important that the disease is
detected at an early stage.
Fortunately, hepatitis A and B can be detected via a
simple blood test. While certain measures can be
taken to prevent hepatitis A and B infection,
vaccination is one of the best ways of protecting
against the disease.