World Hepatitis Day

Posted on July 28th, 2014

Viral hepatitis is a silent epidemic in the United States and more than 4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C.  And 85,000 become infected each year.

Approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis each year. Despite these statistics, viral hepatitis is not well known. In fact, as many as 75 percent people with chronic viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.

What is Viral Hepatitis?

The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the US, the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), lasting from a few weeks to several months. It does not lead to chronic infection.

Transmission: Ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from close person-to-person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or drinks.

Vaccination: Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all children starting at age 1 year, travelers to certain countries, and others at risk.

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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term (chronic) illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Transmission: Contact with infectious blood, semen, and other body fluids from having sex with an infected person, sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs, or from an infected mother to her newborn.

Vaccination: Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants, older children and adolescents who were not vaccinated previously, and adults at risk for HBV infection.

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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV infection sometimes results in an acute illness, but most often becomes a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

Transmission: Contact with the blood of an infected person, primarily through sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs.

Vaccination: There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

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