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Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
The majority of individuals infected by the hepatitis A virus have symptoms that may resemble the flu (influenza - fatigue, fever and headaches, etc.), while others may experience abdominal cramps and pains, diarrhea and jaundice (the skin and whites of the eyes develop a yellowish color). Jaundice is also known as "icterus". Symptoms of hepatitis A typically commence approximately one month after the virus has penetrated the organism (this is the incubation period). Hepatitis A causes inflammation, symptoms and then is completely cured by the immune system - no chance of long-term infection. A natural infection by the hepatitis A virus confers life-long immunity; antibodies (one of the defense mechanisms of the immune system) specific to hepatitis A prevent re-infection. In addition to jaundice, your urine may turn dark with bile and the stool (feces) light or clay-colored from lack of bile. Hepatitis A usually takes 2 months to resolve completely. While the outcome of hepatitis A is typically favorable, the occasional patient will die from an acute hepatitis A infection. Patients are usually considred infectious for a week after jaundice has been noticed.
In contrast to hepatitis A, many patients infected by either the hepatitis B (HBV) or C (HCV) virus are unaware of their infection (no symptoms) and manage to cure it completely. Those individuals symptomatic from their infection suffer from symptoms similar to those described for hepatitis A above. Symptoms typically commence from one to three months subsequent to penetration of the organism by the virus. It is estimated that approximately 10 % of adults afflicted with an acute hepatitis B infection and 80 % of adults infected with hepatitis C infection will develop chronic longstanding liver inflammation that may lead to long-term complications including cirrhosis and/or liver cancer (hepatoma). Some patients will not completely eliminate the hepatitis B virus and will become carriers of this infection. This means that they may have at all times a small amount of virus in their blood and body fluids. These "carriers" may transmit the infection despite the fact that they are not ill from the virus.
Hepatitis D virus requires the presence of the hepatitis B virus for its survival and manifests itself in a similar fashion. Hepatitis E infection is quite similar to hepatitis A (has an enteric method of transmission -that is to say infection via the digestive tract - contaminated food and water), yet is found more frequently in developing parts of the world (Asia, India and Pakistan, etc.). Heptatitis E is rare in North America. Hepatitis E is particularly serious and even lethal for pregnant women.