World Hepatitis Day takes place every July 28. It is one of the four disease-specific global awareness days endorsed by the WHO to help spread awareness of this slow, silent killer, especially hepatitis C. Let’s learn more about hepatitis and see how we can prevent this together.
Every year, 1.34 million people die from viral hepatitis – the same number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C contributes toward 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
Viral hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five types of hepatitis viruses – Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
It is a disease that transcends global borders. Currently, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their own infection. There’s a high possibility of them developing a fatal liver disease at some point in their lives or worse, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.
How it spreads
- Hepatitis A & E: Through food or water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. Also through raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.
- Hepatitis B: Through contact with blood or other bodily fluids like saliva, semen and vaginal fluid of an infected person. Also passed from mother to child during childbirth.
- Hepatitis C: Through blood-to-blood contact. In rare cases, it can be transmitted through certain sexual practices and during childbirth.
- Hepatitis D: Through Infected blood. It is only found in people who are already infected with Hepatitis B virus.
How to Treat Hepatitis
- Hepatitis A: Sometimes the body is able to combat this acute infection within a few weeks. Also, treatment within a few weeks of exposure can give you short term immunity.
- Hepatitis B: Alpha interferon, peginterferon and other antiviral drugs can slow the replication of the virus and sometimes clear it. Children born to hepatitis B infected moms should be vaccinated within 12 hours of birth.
- Hepatitis C: To treat chronic hepatitis C to eradicate the virus, a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin and also the use of potent direct acting antiviral drugs are used. This drug cure is expensive, though.
- Hepatitis D: Conditions may improve with a-interferon, but no effective antiviral therapy is available for hepatitis D.
- Hepatitis E: There is no treatment for hepatitis E. However, it is usually self-limiting.
- Practice good hygiene and sanitation. Avoid sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail cutters, needles with an infected person. Do avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities. Avoid drinking water from unsafe sources. Avoid alcohol. Love your liver! Keep it healthy.
- Vaccination is available for only Hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, D and E although a hepatitis B vaccination can prevent hepatitis D.
- In Malaysia, a cumulative total of 63,900 hepatitis C related deaths is projected by 2039. Hepatitis C cannot be cured via a liver transplant. You still need to eliminate the virus from the blood system even after a transplant.
- NOhep – is a global campaign to completely eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. It was born out of the global health community’s response to the 194 countries’ governmental adoption of the WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis (WHO 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva).
- It is possible to eliminate viral hepatitis with effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and now, a cure for hepatitis C. Greater awareness and understanding about the disease and its risks is important as well as access to more affordable diagnostics and treatment.