Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects the liver. It can be caused by different hepatitis viruses such as hepatitis B and C.
The symptoms of hepatitis include jaundice (yellowness of skin and eyes), dark urine, right upper abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Patients with hepatitis B or C can become seriously ill and develop complications such as liver failure, liver cirrhosis (hardening of the liver) or liver cancer.
Who Should Not Donate Blood
If you have ever had hepatitis B or C, you must not donate blood, as the virus can spread through transfusion of contaminated blood, with serious consequences for the patient receiving the transfusion.
A person may have been exposed to the hepatitis B or C virus without knowing it, and may become a carrier of the virus. A carrier can be identified through blood tests. If your blood tests show that you are carrying the hepatitis B or C virus, you must not donate blood.
Hepatitis and Blood Donation
If you have any other types of hepatitis, you must inform the doctor during your donation session.
If you have close contact with any person with hepatitis B, there is a constant high risk of exposure to the disease. You will be deemed to be in close contact with a hepatitis carrier if you live in the same household or come into contact with the carrier's bodily fluids / secretions.
If you wish to make a blood donation, you should:
- Wait at least 12 months after your last contact with the hepatitis B carrier
- Have received a full course of hepatitis B vaccination
- Have documentary proof / records of a satisfactory hepatitis B antibody response (50iu/ml) within the last 5 years of the current donation date
Donors can be immunised against hepatitis B or check their hepatitis immunity status at any polyclinic, GP clinic or tertiary hospital. You should also seek advice from your family doctor regarding your contact with the infected person.
There is unfortunately no effective vaccine for hepatitis C. As such, donors in close contact with someone infected with hepatitis C are not allowed to donate blood. This is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the blood supply.