World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Hepatitis affects millions of people worldwide, killing close to 1.4 million every year. It is time we were aware of this silent killer
By FM Bureau
World Hepatitis Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunisation Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World AIDS Day.
Approximately 500 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications, including liver cancer or liver failure. While many people worry more about contracting AIDS than hepatitis, the reality is that every year 1.5 million people worldwide die from either hepatitis B or C faster than they would from HIV/AIDS.
Hepatitis groups, patients and advocates worldwide take part in events on 28 July to mark the occasion. Notably in 2012, a Guinness World Record was created when 12,588 people from 20 countries did the Three Wise Monkeys actions on World Hepatitis Day to signify the willful ignorance of the disease.
Raising awareness of the different forms of hepatitis and how they are transmitted; Strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases; Increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunisation programmes; and Coordinating a global response to hepatitis.
Each year focuses on a specific theme. The list of themes is as follows:
2013: More must be done to stop this silent killer.
2012: It’s closer than you think.
2011: Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere. Know it. Confront it.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted between people through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. Most common routes of transmission for hepatitis B or C viruses are the following:
In the case of hepatitis B, infection can also occur through having unprotected sex with an infected person. If you think you could have been at risk from either hepatitis B or C, it is important to get tested.
Hepatitis B Treatment
Acute hepatitis B: it is not usually necessary to treat a new hepatitis B infection in the first six months. Nine out of ten new infections clear up on their own, with or without treatment. In this early stage of disease, treatment makes very little difference to the chances of a cure. Antiviral drugs may only be necessary and helpful in rare cases, if the acute infection causes very aggressive liver inflammation.You can treat chronic hepatitis B with peg-interferon or with pills, which are called nucleoside or nucleotide analogues.This treatment may have side effects, such as fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression, skin and hair problems and changes in blood chemistry, amongst others. Treatment continues for 24 to 48 weeks and while not all hepatitis B patients respond well to interferon, certain types of hepatitis B infection do. For example, patients with genotype A, HBeAg positive, with elevated liver enzymes but NO cirrhosis can often successfully reduce their viral infection to a milder state. Your doctor needs to monitor your interferon treatment closely. Interferon treatment should not be used if you already have cirrhosis of the liver
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