Hepatitis in Children
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, leading to damage or destruction of the liver cells. Though there can be many causes of such inflammation, infection due to viruses is the most common cause of hepatitis in children.
The various viruses which can infect the liver are called the Hepatitis viruses and are of types A,B,C,D and E. Out of all, Hepatitis A, which is endemic in India, is the most common cause of acute hepatitis and affects more than 90% of children by late childhood, some of whom develop liver failure and require ICU care.
The Hepatitis A and E viruses spread by the fecal-oral route which is mainly through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. The B and C viruses are transmitted through the route of blood, which can be from an infected mother to a child, infected needle pricks or sexual route.
The A and E types more commonly cause an acute illness and present with fever, malaise, loss of appetite, vomiting and presentation of jaundice. The B and C types are more silent diseases which cause long-term illness in a child. Around 1.1% children in India are chronic carriers of Hepatitis B virus. Either of the conditions if ignored at an early time can lead to serious illness including liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma, parents are thus recommended to consult a pediatrician in case of any suspicion of hepatitis in the child.
It is advisable to follow all steps possible to prevent the development of any form of hepatitis. Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by timely administration of a vaccine and all parents are recommended to get their children vaccinated against them.