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Raising Awareness: World Hepatitis Day

This month marks the fifteenth Anniversary of Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States; May 19 is World Hepatitis Day.  

World Hepatitis Day was launched by the World Hepatitis Alliance in 2008.  The goal is to raise awareness about viral hepatitis in the U.S. and around the world.

According the World Hepatitis Alliance, the organization’s long-term objective is to prevent new infections and to deliver real improvements in health outcomes for people living with hepatitis B and C. Globally, hepatitis is the cause of most (78 percent) primary liver cancer, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.

hepatitis-a-vaccine1.jpgAll hepatitis viruses infect the liver. 

Each year, approximately 30,000 to 50,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in

the United States. Hepatitis A is the only common vaccine-preventable

foodborne disease in the United States. Unlike hepatitis B and C,

hepatitis A doesn’t develop into chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, which

are both potentially fatal conditions; however, infection with the

hepatitis A virus (HAV) can still lead to acute liver failure and

death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention, estimates of the annual direct and indirect costs of

hepatitis A in the United States have ranged from $300 million to

$488.8 million in 1997 dollars.

Hepatitis A is more common in

countries with underdeveloped sanitation systems. It is a communicable

(or contagious) disease that spreads from person to person. It is

transmitted by the “fecal-oral route,” generally from person-to-person,

or via contaminated food or water. Contamination takes place in

food-related outbreaks during food preparation by a Hepatitis

A-infected food handler.

Although ingestion of contaminated

food is a common means of spread for hepatitis A, it may also be spread

by household contact among families or roommates, sexual contact, by

the ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish (like oysters), and by

direct inoculation from persons sharing illicit drugs.

Hepatitis

A is relatively stable and can survive for several hours on fingertips

and hands and up to two months on dry surfaces.

Affected

individuals generally suffer from loss of appetite, so the main concern

is ensuring a patient receives adequate nutrition and avoids permanent

liver damage.  An individual’s perception of the severity of fatigue is

the best determinant of the need for rest.

Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted through shared needles, shared personal items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person, and by having unprotected sex with an infected person. 

Symptoms of hepatitis B include exhaustion, mild fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, and more. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus and about 350 million people are living with chronic infections. About 500,000-700,000 people each year from hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C is different from hepatitis B in that the virus more frequently stays in the body for longer than six months, and therefore becomes chronic. Four out of five people with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection which may cause cirrhosis and liver cancer after 15-30 years.  There are approximately 170 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C worldwide.

Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine that will prevent hepatitis C.

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