World Hepatitis Day is observed every July 28th as a global health campaign to bring awareness for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for this virus. July 28th is the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, a Nobel-prize-winning scientist who developed a test and vaccine for the hepatitis B virus. According to World Hepatitis Day.org, viral hepatitis is one of the world’s leading causes of death, killing as many as HIV/AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is mainly a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. There are five different hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D, and E. The most common forms of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C.
Hepatitis A is spread through eating contaminated food or drinking water. It is most common in countries with poor sanitation. While there is a vaccine for hepatitis A, the body is often able to fight off the infection on its own.
Hepatitis B is spread through an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids. It is also considered a sexually transmitted disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that an estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B worldwide. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, but there is no cure. Some infected persons can clear the virus on their own, while others can develop long-term liver failure, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact – through infected needles and syringes, blood transfusions before 1992, and birth to an infected mother. There is no cure for hepatitis C and more than 50% of those infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection.
The most concerning danger is that many people with hepatitis do not have symptoms, or know they are infected until they are screening for other blood tests, or the disease turns chronic. Initial symptoms include nausea, fever, fatigue, stomach pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.
World Hepatitis Day is dedicated to eliminating hepatitis B and C as public health threats by the year 2030. Strategies include immunization programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, harm reduction services, injection, blood and surgical safety, and treatment of chronic hepatitis.
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