Each year on July 28, World Hepatitis Day is held to spread awareness about the disease. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 290 million people live with hepatitis B without knowing it and 58 million live with hepatitis C and ignore it.
The mission of this day is to educate as many people as possible about the screening and treatments available for the different types of hepatitis.
In 2020 the theme is ‘Find the Missing Millions’. This day aims to raise awareness of the risks of viral hepatitis, the prevention of infections, and the fight against this disease.
Hepatitis A is spread through the ingestion of contaminated items. The risk of infection with the hepatitis A virus is linked with polluted drinking water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Most often, the infected individual heals spontaneously and becomes immune. But sometimes the infection can be serious and life-threatening. There is a safe and effective vaccine against the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis B is easily spread by blood through blood transfusions, semen, and other body fluids. Hepatitis B causes more than 780,000 deaths each year. There is an effective vaccine against this virus.
Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood transfusions with contaminated blood or through injection drug use. It is responsible for around 350,000 deaths each year. No vaccine is available for the hepatitis C virus, but there are effective treatments that can completely eradicate the virus, such as direct-acting antivirals.
Hepatitis D affects 15 to 20 million people worldwide. It is only found in people affected by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B vaccines also protect against hepatitis D.
Hepatitis E is a mild pathology but it can have serious consequences in the most sensitive individuals. 20 million people are affected. There are effective treatments for treating chronic hepatitis E.
To get vaccinated
- Several hepatitis vaccines are available, although none is allowed for infants less than one year of age.
- If you are exposed to hepatitis A, getting vaccinated, or having an antibody injection within two weeks of exposure can help prevent infection.
- The hepatitis C vaccine protects against the disease for 20 years but not for life.
- Pregnant women with the disease can transmit hepatitis to their babies during delivery, but newborns can in most cases be vaccinated to prevent infection.
- By doing prevention against hepatitis B, we also prevent hepatitis D because the latter only develops in subjects affected by hepatitis B.
- There is no hepatitis C vaccine, but there is a cure.
- Although safe and effective hepatitis E vaccines have been developed, they are not yet available everywhere.
To protect yourself
- Hepatitis A, B, and C are sexually transmitted.
- Hepatitis B and C are also transmitted through needles. It is necessary to never share needles in case of injection, and for tattoos or piercings, it is necessary to turn to a reputable shop that uses sterilized equipment.
- Good hygiene, washing your hands regularly, and avoiding contaminated water is important to prevent hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis A is spread through food or contaminated food and contact with an infected object or person. Hepatitis E is spread mainly through contamination of water with feces.
- The sooner screening is done, the faster you can start treatment and increase your chances of getting the disease.
- Mild cases of hepatitis A do not require treatment and most people who are infected fully recover.
- If you are living with hepatitis B, you may need treatment, but be aware that it can help you stay healthy throughout your life.
- For hepatitis C, a three-month treatment will cure the infection.
- There is no specific treatment for severe hepatitis E, prevention is the most effective approach to take.
Although hepatitis B and C viruses are different, the two infections can be transmitted similarly when:
- Unprotected sex
- Sharing drug use equipment;
- The use of non-sterilized tattoo and body piercing instruments;
- Blood-to-blood contact;
- Sharing personal hygiene items like a toothbrush or a razor in the case of hepatitis b
Hepatitis causes inflammation and various other symptoms can help to trace early signs of the disease:
- Loss of appetite,
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes,
- Skin rash
- Dark urine,
- Flu-like symptoms.
Hepatitis testing is done through a blood test at the health center and the work population is encouraged to get tested to be saved from this disease.