John Inman dies of Hepatitis A – Errr…. How exactly?

The BBC is reporting that John Inman who died yesterday had “been suffering from a hepatitis A infection for a number of years.” Now I’m not the world’s expert on medicine but that makes no sense at all. Hepatitis A (liver inflammation) is easily curable and only on very rare occasions causes liver damage permanently even if it’s not treated in time. Furthermore, that website tells us:

  • Type A hepatitis never becomes a long-term, debilitating (chronic) condition.
  • Once a person has recovered, they will be immune to infection by the hepatitis A virus for the rest of their life.

So how come the Beeb is saying that John Inman died of Hep A? He didn’t did he? He died from something else. Why is the BBC lying?

18 Comments on “John Inman dies of Hepatitis A – Errr…. How exactly?

  1. Hi Peter-

    Happened to come across your website when this site popped up on my RSS reader. And, since I’m in a position to know, I thought I’d answer your question. Actually about 100 people die in the U.S. from Hepatitis A every year. The disease, while ordinarily not dangerous, poses a greater risk for those over 60 or who already have liver disease. People who meet these criteria are at much greater risk of liver failure from hepatitis A.

    So, sorry, the BBC probably isn’t lying to you. About this at any rate.

    Paul Gibney
    Manager, Marketing & Communications
    The American Liver Foundation

  2. Most people recover from hepatitis A within 6 months; but, with the elderly or those with liver disease, longer infections while uncommon are not unheard of.

  3. First of all, the reporter may be mistaken – Inman did indeed contract Hep A in December 2004, and the reporter may have just confused it with Hep B and assumed it was a chronic infection.

    Secondly, the BBC nowhere states that he died of Hep A. If you want to insinuate that this gay actor died of AIDS, then you should say it straight out.

  4. Steve H – The issue is whether one can actually die from “a hepatitis A infection for a number of years”. That’s the problem.

    Steve W – I think most of us are pretty certain he didn’t die from HIV/AIDS – I’m sure they would have told us that if it were true. Begs the question though – if he was monogamous for the past 25 years, how did he get Hep A?

  5. Hi Peter,

    Report from Presswatch Health News dated 01/03/2007! (Daily Telegraph 01/03/2007).

    [b]Sweat link to hep-B[b]

    Rugby players, boxers and wrestlers could be at risk of catching the liver disease hepatitis B from the sweat of their opponents, according to a study of wrestlers in Turkey, which found particles of the disease in sweat as well as in blood. The disease can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death.

    Could it be that an assumption can be made here that if there is hep-B trace in sweat there could also be hep-A trace as well! By the way wrestling Husbands and Wives or Partners not mentioned either, (Sweating or otherwise!).
    Of course in the case of our late old friend John he could have died of old age perhaps? I would assume his partner might be able to fill in the missing details? Then again this might well be a private matter don’t you think!

    Yours in His Name,


  6. Peter-

    Hepatitis A is most commonly contracted through contaminated food. That’s why it is such a big deal when there’s an outbreak at a restaurant. That’s why it’s such a good idea to get the hepatitis A vaccine – everybody is at risk for the disease.

  7. I thought this article explained it pretty well. I do know someone who had to have a liver transplant because of Hepatitis A. It is rare but it happens.
    March 12, 2007

    The ‘tummy bug’ that can prove fatal

    John Inman suffered from hepatitis – but it is preventable, says Dr Thomas Stuttaford
    The TV programme Are You Being Served? was always compulsory viewing in the Stuttaford household, and John Inman was the obvious star of the series. Some of my homosexual patients were initially rather cross because he exaggerated the stereotype of the camp gay, with languid hand movements and his obvious pleasure when taking inside-leg measurements.

    His catchphrase “I’m free”, with its obvious innuendo, became famous. Later, even most gay campaigners joined the other 22 million avid viewers as Inman’s humour, so obviously in the pantomime tradition like that of his friend Danny La Rue, mitigated any charge that he was setting back the drive to banish discrimination.

    John Inman, 71, contracted hepatitis more than two years ago, after eating food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A is one of the three frequently confronted forms of hepatitis — hepatitis A, B and C — but there are other types that are more rare. They have been labelled hepatitis D (or delta hepatitis) and hepatitis E, F and G.

    Hepatitis A is highly infectious and accounts for about 40 per cent of cases of hepatitis treated in this country. Many cases are so mild that the patient does not recognise its symptoms as being any more significant than some passing “tummy bug”, but even if they have a sub-clinical infection they may still be infectious.

    The usual clichéd comment of doctors when consulted by a patient with hepatitis A is that although the patient feels like death to a greater extent than during the first stages of hepatitis B or C, death is a most unlikely outcome.

    This standard reassurance is too simplistic and is based on the belief that hepatitis A, if uncomplicated by other problems, does not cause chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Although standard text-books teach that chronic liver failure never follows hepatitis A, it is unwise in medicine ever to use the word never. Conversely, hepatitis B and C are notorious for causing chronic low-grade hepatitis and eventually cirrhosis and liver failure, although this process often takes decades.

    This is not to say that the initial symptoms of hepatitis A are not unpleasant; they are so disabling that one patient in five under the age of 40 is admitted to hospital. The usual pattern is that the attack starts with fever, headache and complete lack of appetite, then nausea and diarrhoea follow before the jaundice appears after about a week.

    Hepatitis A is occasionally a cause of death (but not in more than one case in 1,000). This is most often the result of a fulminant hepatitis, a rare syndrome in which large numbers of liver cells die, the necrotic liver shrivels and the patient rapidly becomes severely jaundiced before dying of liver failure.

    There are other complications caused by hepatitis A but in most cases these are short-lived and clear up without treatment, hence the text-book advice that the prognosis in hepatitis A is excellent. During the immediate convalescent phase some patients may get a recurrence of jaundice, and in others the initial jaundice may last for anything up to six months.

    For several months after an attack of hepatitis A the patient feels weak, depressed and generally debilitated. This is known as the posthepatitis syndrome.

    A great advance in medicine over the past 25 years has been that both hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination. In the case of hepatitis A, the initial dose is repeated six to 12 months later with a booster.

    A form of the vaccination is available for children over the age of 12 months and it should become a routine injection for all those who spend their holidays abroad.

    The mortality rate of hepatitis A increases with age — it is nearly two in 100 patients aged over 40, and among over-55-year-olds the mortality rate is 45 times greater than it is in adolescents.

    Before this year’s holiday in the sun, grandparents, parents and children should be queueing up for the first of their two hepatitis A injections.

    Hepatitis A is transmitted by the faecal oral route, and so has a high prevalence in areas where standards of hygiene are low. The incubation period after eating food handled by grubby hands is two to six weeks.

    Typically the contaminated foods include fresh fruits, salads, ice and shellfish. In Britain the groups of people who are considered at maximum risk of catching it are those looking after children who are not yet potty trained, sewage workers and patients and staff in residential care homes for the mentally handicapped. Epidemics have been common in military campaigns when inadequate attention has been given to the digging of latrines.

    Hepatitis A may also be spread sexually, especially, for obvious reasons, in homosexual patients. Intravenous drug users, if they don’t observe strict standards, are also at high risk.

  8. Apparently you can click on my name and get to my website. That particular website isn’t done yet so I typed another comment for a somewhat better site. My nonprofit is still *under construction* :-)
    Since we are talking about Hepatitis I thought I would post another quick comment about the differences:

    Hepatitis A through E

    Hepatitis A: is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A can affect anyone. In the United States, hepatitis A can occur in situations ranging from isolated cases of disease to widespread epidemics.

    How is hepatitis A virus transmitted?
    Hepatitis A virus is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. This type of transmission is called “fecal-oral.” For this reason, the virus is more easily spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed.
    Most infections result from contact with a household member or sex partner who has hepatitis A. Casual contact, as in the usual office, factory, or school setting, does not spread the virus.

    Hepatitis B: is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

    How great is your risk for hepatitis B?

    One out of 20 people in the United States will get infected with HBV some time during their lives. Your risk is higher if you

    have sex with someone infected with HBV
    have sex with more than one partner
    are a man and have sex with a man
    live in the same house with someone who has lifelong HBV infection
    have a job that involves contact with human blood
    shoot drugs
    are a patient or work in a home for the developmentally disabled
    have hemophilia
    travel to areas where hepatitis B is common (view map)
    Your risk is also higher if your parents were born in Southeast Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.

    If you are at risk for HBV infection, ask your health care provider about hepatitis B vaccine.

    Hepatitis C: is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have the disease. HCV is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.

    Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). You may be at risk for hepatitis C and should contact your medical care provider for a blood test if you:

    were notified that you received blood from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C.
    have ever injected illegal drugs, even if you experimented a few times many years ago
    received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July, 1992
    received a blood product for clotting problems produced before 1987
    have ever been on long-term kidney dialysis
    have evidence of liver disease (e.g., persistently abnormal ALT levels)

    Hepatitis D: is a defective virus that needs the hepatitis B virus to exist. Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is found in the blood of persons infected with the virus.

    HDV is a defective single-stranded RNA virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate. HDV requires HBV for synthesis of envelope protein composed of HBsAg, which is used to encapsulate the HDV genome.

    The delta agent may increase the severity of an acute hepatitis B infection, aggravate previously existing hepatitis B liver disease, or cause infection in asymptomatic hepatitis B carriers. Risk factors are history of previous hepatitis B infection, being a carrier of hepatitis B, and intravenous drug abuse. The incidence is 8 out of 1,000,000 people.

    Hepatitis E: is a virus (HEV) transmitted in much the same way as hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis E, however, does not often occur in the United States.

    Disease Spread
    Through food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person. This disease is uncommon in the United States.
    People at Risk
    International travelers; people living in areas where hepatitis E outbreaks are common; and people who live or have sex with an infected person.

  9. Hi Doctor,

    Thank you for that one! I was tempted to regurgitated the Definitions in the BMA Medical Associations (Illustrated Medical Dictionary, ref. Copyright!), here. Glad I waited for this one from you instead!!! ….

    Yours in His Name,


  10. Your quite welcome. Since I have Hepatitis C I spend my life educating and advocating about Hepatitis…… especially C. Most people don’t know the differences and don’t even realize that almost 5 times as many people have Hepatitis C as people who have HIV/Aids. It really is becoming a global epidemic and gets very little press coverage and when it does most of the *facts* are not correct :-( I am always saddened when another person loses their life to any type of Hepatitis but especially A or B as they are vaccine preventable. Hepatitis C does not have a vaccine. Take care!


  11. Hi Pam.,

    I am deeply sorry to here that about Hep.-C. You will not be forgotten in our prayers! Also I think we had better give Peter his blogsite back too!

    I’ve book marked those sites you quote, very good!

    Yours in His Name,


  12. Sorry for missing the issue.

    I came across this blog in MyBlogLog when looking for blogs on Orthodoxy, and found this one, so wondered if this John Inman was Orthodox, since I’d not heard of him before.

  13. So what if John Inman died from an HIV related illness?

    Oh I’m sorry, did I jump up and down on the crux of your assertion?

    Did you have a bold point to make, or will you stick to weasel like intimations?

  14. Kirsty,

    The issue was a medical one as to whether one could actually die of Hep A. I think you’re the one, if I’m honest, making weasel like intimations about others. Your accusation of homophobia displays more about your anxiety rather than the commenters here.

  15. Why didn´t John Inman have the vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B? Both these have been available for many years in the UK. Also, most GUM clinics advise gay men to have them, as there is an increasing number of gay men who contract the virus through sex. I find it difficult to believe that John Inman contracted the virus through contaminated food whilst being overseas in 2004. Surely he went to his GP prior to his trip, and asked which vaccinations would be required for that particular country?  Hepatitis A is one of the most common vaccinations given to people when they travel overseas, along with malaria/yellow fever and a few others. Would John Inman really travel to a high-risk country without being vaccinated? I find the whole story rather strange :(

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