Every year on July 28th, World Hepatitis Day aims to increase the awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis as a major global health threat. All types of viral hepatitis can cause inflammation of the liver; however, hepatitis B and C infection can result in a lifelong, chronic infection. Worldwide 400 million people are living with hepatitis B or C. Every year 1.4 million people die from viral hepatitis and yet all of these deaths could be prevented. With better awareness and understanding of how we can prevent hepatitis we can eliminate this disease and save 4,000 lives a day.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 400 million people have chronic viral hepatitis worldwide and most of them do not know they are infected. More than 1 million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis, commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer. The date of July 28th was chosen for World Hepatitis Day in honor of the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus.
Recognizing the symptoms of hepatitis can pose quite a challenge for the average person. It’s very difficult to determine whether or not you have the disease without consulting a physician. Most people don’t even realize they might have hepatitis until they experience jaundice, a yellowing of the skin. Showing signs and symptoms is the way the body communicates a problem. There are five main types of hepatitis that are caused by a virus, A, B, C, D, and E.
- Hepatitis A – This is caused by eating infected food or water. The food or water is infected with a virus called HAV (hepatitis A virus). Anal-oral contact during sex can also be a cause.
- Hepatitis B -This is an STD (sexually transmitted disease). It is caused by the virus HBV (hepatitis B virus) and is spread by contact with infected blood, semen, and some other body fluids.
- Hepatitis C – Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. It is caused by the virus HCV (hepatitis C Virus). The liver can swell and become damaged.
- Hepatitis D – Only a person who is already infected with hepatitis B can become infected with hepatitis D. It is caused by the virus HDV (Hepatitis D Virus). Infection is through contact with infected blood, unprotected sex, and perforation of the skin with infected needles.
- Hepatitis E – A person can become infected by drinking water that contains HEV (hepatitis E virus). The liver swells but there is no long-term consequence. Infection is also possible through anal-oral sex.
With hepatitis, there is no single medicine. Treatment is specific to its cause, which means that your physician will choose the best therapy for you based on your diagnosis.Doctors often combine different antiviral drugs to better combat the virus. The future is bright for some types of hepatitis because scientists are working to improve existing treatments and develop new ones like antiviral drugs that more efficiently prevent viral replication in liver cells. In addition, new therapies are taking advantage of the explosion of knowledge in genetic engineering. Treatments using this technology could revolutionize hepatitis therapy.