300 million people unknowingly have hepatitis
- Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
- Hepatitis B and C cause 1.3 million deaths per year – more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.
- Globally, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are unaware they are living with the disease.
- Chronic hepatitis B and C are life-threatening infectious diseases that cause serious liver damage, cancer, and premature death.
- More than 300 million people are infected with the hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus.
- World Hepatitis Day is recognized annually on July 28, the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967, developed the first hepatitis B vaccine two years later, and for these achievements won the Nobel Prize.
- Viral hepatitis is among the top 10 infectious disease killers with more than one million people dying each year from chronic viral hepatitis.
- These deaths are primarily from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
- Chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C cause approximately 60% of liver cancer cases.
- Hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with safe, effective vaccine.
- Treatments are available for hepatitis C that can cure the disease. More than 95% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 2 to 3 months.
World Hepatitis Day is July 28
By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Hepatitis is a medical term we’ve all likely heard since an early age, but did you know that 300 million people are living with viral hepatitis around the world without even knowing it?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. While heavy alcohol use, medications or some medical conditions can cause hepatitis, it’s usually caused by one of five viruses — hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
Kaiser Permanente physicians promote education and awareness about hepatitis in order to stop the spread of this highly preventable disease.
“Everyone should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B,” said Dr. Patricia Dietzgen, Family Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Frisco Medical Offices. “You can also receive type of vaccine if you are exposed to Hep B, and have not been vaccinated. This can help prevent progression of disease.”
While there is no current vaccine available for hepatitis C, there are many ways in which people can protect themselves and prevent the spread of this dangerous disease.
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance, a nonprofit that works to eliminate the disease worldwide.
The A,B,C’s of hepatitis
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Hepatitis A is primarily spread person-to-person by ingesting fecal matter. This can happen through contact with objects, food or drinks that have been contaminated by an infected person’s feces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Risks of contracting hepatitis A are higher in people who travel to countries with less hygiene, inject illicit drugs, children in daycare or adults in institutions,” Dietzgen said, adding that there is a vaccine for hepatitis A available as a two-part series.
Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen or other bodily fluids from an infected person enter the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis C is spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected.
“People can transmit hepatitis A before they have symptoms or know they have the disease. Foods including fruit, vegetables, water, ice and shellfish harvested from contaminated water can carry the disease,” Dietzgen said. “Most people are able to fight off the illness after a few days, and some may need supportive care such as IV fluids or anti-nausea medication. Rarely are there long-term consequences, but it is highly infectious.”
Hepatitis B — which is spread by contact with bodily fluids, open sores or blood from an infected person — can be more serious than A. Dietzgen said that most people are able to fight off the disease on their own in a few months, but about 5 to 10 percent of people develop chronic hepatitis B.
“This can lead to scarring, or hardening of the liver, cirrhosis and decreased liver function, and there is also an increased risk of liver cancer,” she said.
“The good news is there is a very effective vaccine for hepatitis B.”
Hepatitis C is contracted through needles and is much more severe. If left untreated, it can lead to chronic liver disease. The CDC reports that about 75 to 85 percent of the people who become infected with hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection. Dietzgen said anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should have at least one lab test to see if they’ve been exposed to hepatitis C. This generation has the most cases of the disease, likely because blood screening methods were not well established for donating blood back then, she said.
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