Every year on July 28, the World Hepatitis Alliance joins forces with communities around the world to fight the spread of viral hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day 2017 is focused on the impactful theme: “Eliminate Hepatitis.” With the support of 194 governments across the globe, the World Health Organization plans to rid the world of viral hepatitis altogether by the year 2030. Through motivated global efforts to raise awareness, advance research efforts, and improve treatment methods, the worldwide destruction caused by viral hepatitis can be put to an end.
The Global Impact of Viral Hepatitis: 1.34 Million Deaths per Year
Viral hepatitis affects men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. With 1.34 million deaths per year, viral hepatitis is a deadly global epidemic. Most people that have a form of viral hepatitis are completely unaware that they are infected. Hepatitis occurs when a virus infects the body and causes inflammation of the liver. Over 80% of liver cancer cases are caused by viral hepatitis infections. The hepatitis viruses are transmitted through consumption or transference of bodily fluids. Five different forms of hepatitis viruses exist: A, B, C, D, and E.
- Hepatitis A: The A virus is transmitted when food and water that has been contaminated by the waste of a person infected with hepatitis is consumed. Hepatitis A is an acute form with mild and short-lived symptoms.
- Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood or vaginal fluids. This form of hepatitis is often transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn baby during childbirth.
- Hepatitis C: This form of hepatitis is transmitted via contact with infected blood. Hepatitis C cannot be prevented through vaccination, but antiviral drugs can be used to treat infection.
- Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D is also transmitted through the blood, but it only appears in individuals who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus. Antiviral treatments are not yet available for hepatitis D.
- Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated food and water consumption, in the same manner as hepatitis A. Vaccines against hepatitis E are not yet available. With hepatitis A and E, the immune system most often gets rid of the infection independent of additional treatment requirements.
Vaccinations only exist for hepatitis A and B, so it is extra important to take the necessary preventative measures against viral infection. All forms of viral hepatitis are preventable through wise hygiene and sanitation practices. Chances of infection can be greatly reduced through avoiding sharing needles or any other personal tools with infected individuals. People that get tattoos or piercings from unlicensed establishments put themselves at a higher risk of becoming infected with hepatitis, as well as other dangerous viruses. Practicing safe sex prevents hepatitis B infections by limiting the transmission of infected bodily fluids. With the proper preventative measures, millions of lives around the world can be saved from deadly hepatitis infections and the dangers of liver cancer.
Get Involved: Join the Forces Against Viral Hepatitis
Educational materials are available at worldhepatitisday.org to help educate about treatment and safe prevention practices. The World Hepatitis Alliance is making efforts to demonstrate the widespread effects of viral hepatitis through the 2017 #ShowYourFace campaign. People with hepatitis are creating posters using their faces and languages from every culture around the world to spread the message that anybody can be affected by hepatitis and anybody can help in the fight against the viral epidemic. If the faces of the world join forces to raise awareness and fight for treatment solutions, viral hepatitis can be a danger the world never has to face again.