World Hepatitis Day: The bell tolls for thee on July 28

July 28th is World Hepatitis Day. That day, 4,000 people will die from viral hepatitis. Since we’re only 13 days away from that date, it may be too late for them – and for the 4,000 that will pass away on each of those 13 days. But it may not be too late for you. ‘Why me?’ you might ask. And the answer is ‘why not?’ There are about 400 million people with chronic viral hepatitis in the planet, according to the World Health Organization. Moreover, the vast majority of those people do not even know that they are infected with a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. So that begs the question, are you absolutely 100% sure that you do not have hepatitis? No? Then check the CDC’s Hepatitis Risk Assessment online tool to determine whether you should get tested or vaccinated.

Should it turn out that you have any form of hepatitis – A, B, C, D, or E – you should seek medical treatment immediately. But even if you’re hepatitis-free, you should observe preventative measures to make sure you remain so. Sometimes prevention is not only the best, but the only medicine.

Hepatitis types, facts and information

 

Transmission

Prevention

Treatment

A

Spread mostly through eating food or drinking water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, or eating raw shellfish from sewage-contaminated water.

  • Vaccine available.
  • Good hygiene and sanitation.
  • Avoid water from a potentially unsafe source.

Does not cause chronic infection, so the body usually clears the infection in a few weeks. Still, acute infections may cause further complications.

B

Spread through contact with blood, saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, and other bodily fluids from an infected person. Also from mother to child during childbirth.

  • Vaccine available.
  • Use condoms.
  • Avoid sharing needles, toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors, etc.
  • Avoid tattoos or piercings from unlicensed facilities.

Alpha interferon, peginterferon, and several antiviral drugs.

C

Spread mostly through blood-to-blood contact. Rarely through certain sexual acts or during childbirth.

  • No vaccine available.
  • Avoid sharing needles, toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors, etc.
  • Avoid tattoos or piercings from unlicensed facilities.

A combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and/or potent direct acting antivirals.

D

Transmitted through contact with contaminated blood.

  • Get Hep B vaccine (only people who already have B develop D).
  • Avoid sharing needles, toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors, etc.
  • Avoid tattoos or piercings from unlicensed facilities.

a-interferon may improve conditions but there is no effective antiviral treatment.

E

Spread mostly through eating food or drinking water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, or eating raw shellfish from sewage-contaminated water.

  • Vaccine not widely available.
  • Good hygiene and sanitation.
  • Avoid drinking water from a potentially unsafe source.

No treatment available, but the condition is generally self-limiting.

What are the risks of hepatitis?

Many people may feel to get tested for hepatitis because they are under the impression that only intravenous drug users, prison inmates, or promiscuous individuals develop this infection. And while it’s true that 67% of people who inject drugs worldwide are infected with Hep C – and up to 97% in some countries – that is by no means the only risk. Healthcare workers, people who travel to high risk areas, and people who live with infected individuals are also prone to infection. In addition to contaminated water and food and tattoos and piercings, injected medications – often administered unnecessarily and with reused equipment – and blood transfusions also account for millions of new infections every year. Furthermore, hepatitis can be transmitted from surfaces; the Hep C virus can survive for up to 16 hours outside a host at room temperature on environmental surfaces. In fact, hepatitis C is 10 times more infectious than the HIV virus.  

Taking action on World Hepatitis Day

  • Vaccination. Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable.
  • Testing. Quick, simple, and pain-free.
  • Treatment. New treatments cure 90% to 95% of patients with hepatitis C. Hep B has no cure but it can be treated.

Related Read:

- Early symptoms of viral hepatitis