Thursday, July 28th is World Hepatitis Day, with this year’s theme being Elimination. A movement called NOhep is being initiated, which focuses on the goal to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public threat by the year 2030. This is the first ever global elimination strategy for viral hepatitis and the first time that national governments are committing to eliminate the disease. So what should you know about Hepatitis and what can you do to get involved in the NOhep movement?
Approximately 400 million people worldwide are infected with chronic viral hepatitis with 1.4 million people dying each year from the infection. There are five different types of hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. These viruses cause inflammation in the liver, called viral hepatitis. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types in the United States and hepatitis B, C, and D can cause long-term infections, called chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis can lead to many complications such as liver failure, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
To help the fight against viral hepatitis, it is important to: prevent infection and the spread of infection, get tested for viral hepatitis, and get treated if you have a viral hepatitis infection.
- This virus is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Spread of the virus can be prevented by frequent hand washing with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper and before preparing food.
- There is a vaccine that can prevent infection. The vaccine is recommended for children, people traveling to an area with Hepatitis A is common (such as Central and South America and some parts of Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe), and people at high risk for infection.
- There is no treatment for Hepatitis A, but the body is typically able to clear the infection in a few weeks. However, complications occasionally occur.
- This strain is spread through blood or other body fluids such as saliva, vaginal fluid, or semen or during childbirth.
- There is a vaccine to prevent infection with Hepatitis B. This vaccine is recommended for everyone.
- There are some medications that can help to treat an existing infection.
- This virus is mostly spread through blood-to-blood contact, but can also be spread through sexual activity and during childbirth. Prior to 1992, we did not have adequate screening techniques for Hepatitis C in blood and there is a possibility that it could have been transmitted through a blood infusion or solid organ transplant.
- There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C infection, so preventing exposure is very important. Avoid sharing needles, toothbrushes, and razors with an infected person. Also ensure sterile equipment is used during medical procedures, tattoos, and body piercings.
- Anyone at a high risk of infection should be tested. This includes people born between 1945 and 1965, anyone who has ever injected illegal drugs, people who have received blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, anyone who has received long term hemodialysis, people with HIV infection, signs or symptoms of liver damage, and children born to mothers who are Hepatitis C positive.
- If infection does occur there are medications that can cure the infection.
- This virus can only be spread to people who are also infected with Hepatitis B. It is spread through contact with infected blood.
- While there is no vaccine for the Hepatitis D virus, having the Hepatitis B vaccine will prevent infection with Hepatitis D.
- There are currently no effective medications to treat Hepatitis D infections.
- This virus is spread similarly to Hepatitis A, through consuming contaminated food or water.
- There is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis E.
- The virus usually goes away on its’ own.