Every year, 1.4 million people die from viral hepatitis. This year's World Hepatitis Day is launching a campaign to eliminate the disease by 2030.
Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Often known as a hidden disease, hepatitis infects 10 million people a year, and most don't even know they have it. However, its harm is far from unseen. Each year, 1.4 million die from the disease¹. All despite there being highly effective vaccines, treatments and cures for viral hepatitis.
Eliminating viral hepatitis
That's all set to change. On 28 July, the World Health Organization's 'World Hepatitis Day' will focus on eliminating the disease and saving 7.1 million lives by 2030¹. A new campaign – NOHep – launches the same day, which aims to reach 300 million people and give them a platform to speak out. It will also encourage worldwide governments to meet their commitments on eliminating viral hepatitis, which they signed up to at the World Health Assembly in May.
The A to E of hepatitis
There are five different hepatitis viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Some pass without posing serious difficulties to people, while others can cause significant problems. Here's an overview of each.
Hepatitis A spreads mainly through eating food or drinking water that's contaminated by an infected person's faeces. It also spreads by eating raw shellfish that came from sewage-contaminated water. There's a vaccination, however, the body can often clear itself of the disease within a few weeks. That said, in a small number of people (10-15%3), hepatitis A infections can sometimes cause further complications. Good hygiene, sanitation, and avoiding potentially unsafe drinking water reduces the risk of catching it².
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with an infected person's blood or other body fluids, such as saliva, semen and vaginal fluid. Mothers can also pass it to their children during childbirth. A vaccination can prevent infection, while other drugs can slow the virus, or occasionally clear it altogether. To avoid exposure, it's best to use condoms, and avoid sharing needles or items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person. It's also a good idea to avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities².
Known as a 'silent killer', Hepatitis C spreads mainly through blood-to-blood contact. Rarely, it can also spread through certain sexual practices and during childbirth. As with Hepatitis B, it's essential not to share needles and other items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person – and not to get tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities. Currently, there's no vaccination for hepatitis C. Treatment aims to eradicate the virus, however, some people respond to it better than others².
Hepatitis D is transmitted through contact with infected blood, and is only found in those infected with hepatitis B. Those who don't already have hepatitis B, should get the hepatitis B vaccination. Administering a certain treatment may improve people's condition, however, there's currently no effective antiviral therapy for hepatitis D. Again, to reduce your risk of Hepatitis D, follow the advice for Hepatitis B and C².
Hepatitis E, like hepatitis A, spreads mainly through eating contaminated food or drinking water. There's a vaccine to prevent hepatitis E but it's not widely available. However, the disease usually only exists for a limited time in the body and you can reduce your risk of getting it by practising good hygiene and ensuring any water you drink is properly sanitised².
If you or someone you know has suffered from or currently has Hepatitis, see how you can benefit from and get involved with World Hepatitis Day 2016. And don’t forget to protect yourself from Hepatitis if you’re planning to travel abroad – Hepatitis vaccinations are available.
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