About 1.5 million people with the virus die each year from its effects, which is about the same number of victims who die from HIV/AIDS.
July 28 marks the seventh World Hepatitis Day, devoted to spreading awareness about viral hepatitis. The virus, which causes inflammation of the liver, affects more than 400 million people worldwide and is the world’s eighth biggest killer. About 1.5 million people with the virus die each year from its effects, which is about the same number of victims who die from HIV/AIDS.
Most people who have hepatitis do not know they are infected, so it is important to understand the causes of each type and how to prevent contracting the virus.
- Can cause mild to severe illness but does not lead to chronic infection
- 1.4 million cases in the world each year
- Spread by ingesting food and water that has been contaminated (usually with trace amounts of fecal matter) or through direct contact with an infected person
- Prevention: Hepatitis A vaccine for all children older than age 1 and at-risk adults; reducing exposure by practicing good hygiene and avoiding drinking water that may be unsafe
- Causes severe liver damage, leading to acute or chronic illness
- 240 million people in the world are living with chronic infections
- Spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids
- Left untreated, can cause serious liver problems, such as cirrhosis and cancer
- Treatments are available that can help slow down or prevent liver damage
- Prevention: Hepatitis B vaccine for all babies at birth and at-risk adults; reduce risk by not sharing needles and personal grooming items such as toothbrushes, razors and nail scissors; practicing safe sex; and avoiding getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities
- Causes acute and chronic disease
- 130 to 150 million people in the world are infected
- Spread through contact with an infected person’s blood
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 should get a blood test; they are five times more likely to be infected
- Often has no symptoms, but can lead to liver damage
- Prevention: There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. The only way to prevent it is to reduce the risk of exposure. Don’t share needles, other injection equipment or personal grooming items; avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities.
- New treatments are available that aim to cure a person by eliminating the virus from the body.
Hepatitis D and E are less common strains of the virus.
Get involved in the discussion on social media this year by tweeting #thinkhepatitis.