Viral hepatitis is a common cause of liver disease in Australia with a spectrum of clinical manifestations. Although an acute illness with jaundice may mark infection, often viral hepatitis remains silent until the complications of cirrhosis or liver cancer arise.
- Acute hepatitis is usually self-limiting in patients with hepatitis A and in adults with hepatitis B but progresses to chronic infection in those with hepatitis C and children with hepatitis B.
- Screening of patients in risk groups or those with abnormal liver function tests will help diagnose chronic cases of viral hepatitis.
- Provision of simple patient advice on prevention of transmission of the hepatitis viruses and implementation of vaccinations required are key roles of the GP.
- Treatment efficacies have improved and treatment indications widened, thus ensuring more patients have access to therapy is a priority.