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Hepatitis Eating Your Liver Without Even Chianti. It's SCIENCE!

Science

Ah, May. The flowers are blooming again. Mother’s Day… and of course, it’s Hepatitis Awareness Month.


But you knew that, right? You’re a Wonkette reader (and hopefully you give us a monthly tithe just like you do to the FSM church, but if not, here’s a handy donation link RIGHT in article. No need to scroll all the way down and pull a wrist muscle), and so you're savvy and probably already have a screening visit scheduled for this Saturday, National Hepatitis Testing Day.

Hepatitis. Hepat is the liver part. Itis means inflammation. (Thanks to the reader who spotted my mistake!) So, inflamed liver. That’s it. This is not to be confused with “hepatits” which is what Mel Gibson once called a female police officer who had liver shaped breasts. BUT, there are a lot of reasons for your liver to be inflamed. Being you are reading Wonkette, if you have an inflamed liver I’m guessing it was from years of drinking, so “alcoholic hepatitis,” but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about viruses. Goddamn things that we can’t classify as alive but that act like they are and those little pendejos will fuck with us like they are pissed off about something and decided to take it out on our livers, which we need to filter all those “old Cubans” (my current drink of choice) and Mojitos. So, yeah, tiny dickheads. Here is an actual electronmicrograph of one:

So, “viral hepatitis.” There are three main fuckers, imaginatively named hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. There are two more (“D” and “E” of course) but those are pretty rare.

Hep A

When you hear about a hepatitis outbreak at some restaurant because Tony didn’t wash his hands after his bathroom break, that’s hepatitis A. Thanks, Tony! You can ingest Hep A and then come down with the infection. If you’re lucky and/or reasonably healthy it can be mild and last a few weeks and go away without treatment. Alternatively, you can be screwed, and have it take months to go away. That’s mostly old people or those who have wimpy immune systems. Here’s the thing about Hep A. There’s no actual treatment! If you get it, you’ll get supportive care for your symptoms, but you’ll just have to suck it up until it’s gone. Think the flu but you have eyes like a wino’s and it takes longer to go away. There’s a vaccine for it, but most people don’t get it because we don’t really have that many cases in the US. Estimates are about 2000-3000 new cases each year. Some countries have much greater incidence, so if you have trip to Madagascar or India, you may consider getting a shot before you fly out.

Hep B

Also a virus, but this one has an acute phase that in a chunk of folks turns chronic, as in "won’t go away on its own." About five percent of adults who get infected will develop the chronic version that needs treatment or else it will fuck with your liver in a bad, bad way. Here’s the pisser, you can get infected but not show symptoms for 30 years! Meanwhile, you can infect others AND your liver is slowly turning into something as worthless as spellcheck on Trump’s Twitter app. You can also develop liver cancer from it. Young kids, if THEY get infected? They are way more likely to get the chronic version. Like 10 times more likely than adults.

The good news versus Hep A is that this one you get sexually or by sharing needles, that blood to blood sort of thing. Be careful out there in party land and you can prevent getting it. There are some antiviral meds that help keep the infection at bay, but no cure. There is a vaccine, though which I recommend if you’re a swinger or druggie. With that in mind, if you don’t get the shot, be careful when you’re hitting up your usual heroin den in Mongolia or visiting your favorite hooker in Greenland.

Hep B is a lifelong gift, at least for now, which takes us to:

Hep C

For years, this one was stupidly called “non-A/non-B” because no one had been able to identify the virus. That is, until the bitchen scientists at my first biotech company isolated it and then the lab I worked in developed blood tests for it. Ah, days spent sweating in a level 3 biocontainment lab in a hot bunny suit working with live virus… Anyway, enough about Carlos. That was back in the early '90s and from the time we identified the virus up to the first approved cure in 2013, if you got it, you were pretty fucked. Worse than Hep B as far as nuking your liver, but if you catch it, you’re about 85% likely to get the chronic version, unlike the 5% for Hep B. So, what countries have the greatest prevalence? Here you go:

Hep C was a very scary bug until 2013, which changed with the approval of sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi). Say what you will about the pharma industry (and be somewhat nice please, since I still work there), but they DON’T hide cures to shit. Cures to shit make bank. Sovaldi and other next generation cures (next gen ones have higher cure rates and work with less doses) cost in the neighborhood of $60,000 - $90,000 for the 8-12 weeks of treatment. Yeah, yeah, that’s a lot, I know, but it’s literally saving lives and it’s a one shot (actually pills, so not literally one shot) deal, not chronic therapy. You know what though? Insurance companies are mostly really happy to cover it because it’s way more expensive for the alternative chronic shitty therapies that you’d take for life until your liver failed. Also, way cheaper than a liver transplant.

So, there you have it. The A, B, Cs of viral hepatitis. There is a D and E, but they are pretty rare so not worth talking about here. If you are really interested, we can chat in the comments... just don't give me shit about baseball. This beaner don't care!

Carlos Sagan

I am a biochemist MexiCAN. I also write screenplays, ever hoping to get one made.

email me at: carlossagan2018@gmail.com

follow me at: @RealCarlosSagan

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