World Hepatitis Day takes place every year on July 28th, bringing the world together to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to call on the world to take action against this disease.
This year’s theme is “We can’t wait”, conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness – even in the current COVID-10 crisis – we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis.
What is Viral Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis is caused by several different viruses. In the US, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis B and C are leading causes of liver cancer in the United States.
How does someone get infected with the hepatitis virus?
The hepatitis viruses typically spread from an infected person. For example, Hepatitis A and E spread through contact with food or water that has been contaminated by an infected person’s stool. This is why restaurant employees are required to wash their hands after using the restroom facilities.
People may also get E by eating undercooked pork, deer or shellfish.
Hepatitis B, C and D spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids. This contact can occur in many ways including sharing drug needles or having unprotected sex.
How do I know if I have hepatitis?
About 66% of people with hepatitis B are unaware of their infection and about 40% of people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected.
Getting tested is the only way to know if you have hepatitis. The CDC recommends one-time hepatitis C testing of all adults (18 years and older) and all pregnant women during every pregnancy. People with risk factors, including people who inject drugs, should be tested regularly.
Talk to your GM provider about the blood test to determine if you have hepatitis.
Many people with hepatitis do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. If symptoms occur with an acute infection, they can appear anytime from 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take decades to develop. Symptoms of hepatitis can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.
Vaccines to prevent getting hepatitis
The CDC recommends vaccinations to prevent hepatitis for the following people:
Hepatitis A – who should be vaccinated?
- All children aged 12–23 months
- All children and adolescents 2–18 years of age who have not previously received hepatitis A vaccine (known as “catch up” vaccination)
- International travelers
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use or inject drugs (all those who use illegal drugs)
- People with occupational risk for exposure
- People experiencing homelessness
- Pregnant people at risk for hepatitis A
Hepatitis B – who should be vaccinated?
- All infants
- All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated
- People at risk for infection by sexual exposure including: people whose sex partners have hepatitis B, sexually active people who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship, people seeking evaluation or treatment for an STD, and men who have sex with men
- People at risk for infection by exposure to blood including: people who inject drugs, people who live with a person who has hepatitis B, residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled people, health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
- Hemodialysis patients and predialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
- People with diabetes aged 19–59 years; people with diabetes aged 60 or older should ask their doctor.
- International travelers to countries where hepatitis B is common
- People with hepatitis C
- People with chronic liver disease
- People with HIV
- People who are in jail or prison
Hepatitis C – There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
To help eradicate this disease, Gorman Medical recommends that you get tested for hepatitis. Talk to your provider at your next visit.