The virus that causes the hepatitis G forms of the condition was first identified in the 1996; it is one of the "alphabet" types of viral diseases. It does not cause any considerable chronic symptoms in the affected individual and only causes a mild acute hepatitis of no clinical significance.
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This does not mean that the overall effect of the infection and the virus's underlying effects on the liver and on the individual's overall health over the long period of time are fully known. It is very similar structurally and symptomatically to the virus that causes hepatitis C, thus the hepatitis G virus is also called the hepatitis GB virus C or HGBV-C more commonly.
The hepatitis G is included in a group of viruses known as flaviviruses. Its infection is usually related and occurs along with an infection of the hepatitis B or the C viruses. Though the hepatitis G virus infection occurs along with an infection of the hepatitis B or C, symptoms from both of these are not necessarily aggravated by its presence in the body.
Five subtypes of the hepatitis G have been identified. These subtypes differ depending on the part of the country they occur in. Its origin is believed to be from blood contaminated with a monkey virus.
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This monkey virus was transmitted primarily from one monkey to another until an infection was passed to humans; this is the probable way in which the virus started infecting humans. Human blood in countries such as the United States and Canada in North America, Peru in South America, and the African state of Egypt and Western Africa, and the continent of Europe have shown the incidence of this form of the hepatitis virus.
In addition to this, approximately 1.5 percent of Japanese hepatitis patients who are not affected by the A and E forms are thought to be infected with the G virus. Added to this fact, approximately 18 percent of West African hepatitis patients have the same hepatitis virus in their blood samples.
Carriers for the virus can also be found among otherwise healthy people in the United States, research suggests that the G virus has been present in the nation's blood supply as long as 25 ago. Undetected hepatitis G infections may account for at least 1 and 2 percent of the nation's blood donors suggest expert, this figure is much higher than the rate of infection from either the hepatitis B or C form.
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Hepatitis G virus is the only identified virus in 0.3 percent of hepatitis cases among all recognized community-acquired acute viral hepatitis cases, according to the statistics. Contaminated blood was thought to be the only way in which this particular strain of viral hepatitis was thought to be transmitted earlier.
The case for sexual transmission of this virus is now certain and this virus is sexually transmitted in a number of cases. In addition, scientific research conducted in Sweden and Honduras have suggested that there exists a very high rate of infection among healthy individuals from this virus even among those who did not show all the risk factors-such risk factors or behaviors include intravenous drug use and the blood transfusion for people affected with hemophilia.
The possibility of a sexual route for the transmission was suggested by researchers who linked the high rates of infection in homosexual men and in sexually active healthy volunteers. Transmission from an infected mother to unborn child is also known to occur as far as the HGV is concerned; the virus in such cases is usually passed on to the child during childbirth. At the present time, the presence of other routes for the transmission from mother to child is also suspected, though these routes for the passage of the HGV have as yet not been identified.
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People who are repeatedly exposed to blood or blood products, including hemophiliacs, people on hemo-dialysis and intravenous drug users all show an increased prevalence of the hepatitis G genetic material in their blood and the incidence of this form of hepatitis is the greatest in this demographic group. While it is known that many other modes of transmission exists and are indeed very possible - these have not been satisfactorily identified nor have they been documented as yet.
In addition to the above facts, it is also believed that approximately 10 to 20 percent of all hepatitis accounting for the total community-acquired hepatitis and transfusion related hepatitis are not caused by the major hepatitis viruses-which are the A, B, C, D, or E forms. Thus non-A to E hepatitis may well be accounted for by the hepatitis G virus infections, this is suggested by research and recent identification of patients affected by the hepatitis G virus.
The infection from this virus is also 25 percent identical to the infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. The greatest chance exists that the hepatitis G virus is the one responsible for all non A to E hepatitis cases, provided that other causes like the hepatitis C have not been identified at the same time.
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Researchers who have studied this virus also believe that the virus may remain dormant in the body for years on end after a person has been infected, and symptoms if any may not be apparent at all in such cases. Liver damage may eventually be brought about the virus after many years spent replicating in the liver tissue-some research has pointed to this distinct possibility. Liver failure has been linked by many Japanese studies to infections with the hepatitis G virus - especially where the patients were known to be hepatitis affected individuals.
The ability to screen blood for the hepatitis G virus is not possessed by the majority of blood banks in the United States. For this very reason, this virus poses a big threat to the nation's blood supply, and this is a fact that is of great importance to national health initiatives.
In addition to this, it is known that at least certain healthy blood donors may have dormant hepatitis G viral particles in their blood, and this is a serious issue as the transmission of this virus through blood transfusion has been documented in many patients. This leads to the issue of screening again, where commercial test are still not available for screening this particular form of the hepatitis virus.
While it may not be able to identify current infection in a person, the antibody testing methods for this virus, as and when it becomes available, will be of extreme value in dealing with the epidemic. While most underlying infections from the hepatitis G virus still seem largely benign, screenings will still be important as the blood donors already infected with hepatitis B or C will be excluded from donating blood.