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World Hepatitis Day

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. The five main types of viral hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E. World Hepatitis Day, one of the World Health Organization's officially mandated global public health days, takes place on the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, a scientist who discovered the hepatitis B virus and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for it. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to increase awareness about hepatitis, especially about the importance of knowing one's hepatitis status and about treatment. It increases national and international efforts related to hepatitis, encourages actions and engagement, highlights the need for a larger global response, and celebrates progress and meets the current challenges. There is a new theme for each World Hepatitis Day.

Hepatitis B and C are chronic diseases that cause serious liver damage, cancer, and death. Two-thirds of liver cancer deaths are caused by hepatitis B and C. More people die from hepatitis B and C than HIV/AIDS and malaria each year—about 1.4 million. Over 300 million people live with these two viruses. Ninety percent of people with hepatitis B and 80 percent of people with hepatitis C are unaware they have them, which means they could unknowingly transmit hepatitis to others, or develop fatal liver disease or liver cancer during their lifetime. Treatments and vaccines are available for hepatitis B, and there is a cure for hepatitis C, so viral hepatitis could be ended. But to achieve this, awareness and understanding of the disease are needed, as are cheap diagnostics and treatment. This illustrates the importance of having World Hepatitis Day.

How to Observe World Hepatitis Day

Here are some ways you may observe World Hepatitis Day:

  • Use campaign resources—like social media graphics, posters, and logos—to increase awareness about viral hepatitis. Include the hashtag #WorldHepatitisDay with your social media posts.
  • Hold an event or webinar to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, or attend such an event.
  • Show your commitment to the eradication of viral hepatitis by taking a pledge.
  • Sign up for the World Hepatitis Day mailing list.
  • Explore themes from past World Hepatitis Day celebrations.
  • Learn more about hepatitis. The following provides information about the five viral hepatitises:
    • Hepatitis A: It is mainly spread through contaminated food and water. Countries with unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation are prone to it. There is a vaccine, and giving it shortly after onset can help. Hepatitis A can be prevented with good sanitation and hygiene and by avoiding drinking water that might be from an unsafe source. There is no treatment for hepatitis A, but it only causes acute hepatitis, not chronic hepatitis, so the body may be able to clear it after a few weeks. However, it may cause other complications.
    • Hepatitis B: It is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. There is an effective vaccine. People should get vaccinated if they think they'll be exposed to the virus. Using condoms helps prevent its transmission. Avoiding sharing needles and household items like toothbrushes, nail scissors, and razors with infected people also helps prevent its transmission, as does avoiding getting tattoos or piercings from unlicensed facilities. There is no cure, but there are drugs that help people clear the virus, or at least help reduce complications like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
    • Hepatitis C: It is spread through blood-to-blood contact, which usually stems from unsafe injection practice, unscreened blood and blood products, and the inadequate sterilization of medical equipment. There is no vaccine, but exposure risk can be reduced by avoiding sharing needles or household items like toothbrushes, nail scissors, and razors with infected people. Avoiding getting tattoos and piercings from unlicensed facilities is also important. Hepatitis C can be cured with treatment, with the use of a combination of drugs.
    • Hepatitis D: It is spread through contact with infected blood. Only people who already have hepatitis B can get hepatitis D. Thus, it can be prevented by getting vaccinated for hepatitis B. Just as with hepatitis B and C, sharing needles and household items like toothbrushes, nail scissors, and razors should be avoided, and tattoos and piercing should not be gotten from unlicensed facilities. It can be treated with the drug interferon, but this isn't very effective.
    • Hepatitis E: Like hepatitis A, it is mainly spread through contaminated food and water, so it is spread in areas where there is poor sanitation and a lack of safe water. There is a vaccine, but it is not widely available. Hepatitis E can be prevented with good sanitation and hygiene, and by avoiding drinking water that might be from an unsafe source. There is no treatment, but people usually recover on their own. Although, it can be fatal.

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