July 28th is World Hepatitis Day, a time meant for people to learn and think about the wide-spread impact of hepatitis and how they can help combat its prevalence. Throughout the world, more people are living with hepatitis than are living with HIV or any kind of cancer, yet hepatitis lacks the large amount of public awareness that these other diseases receive. World Hepatitis Day was established to help bring a larger discussion about hepatitis and how the disease impacts global health.
Over 500 million people live chronically with either Hepatitis B or C. This translates to roughly 1 out of 12 people in the world living with a chronic form of the illness. An additional 2 billion people suffer from Hepatitis B and 150 million from Hepatitis C. Of those infected with the disease, nearly one million will die each year.
Hepatitis B and C are both transmitted through contact with infected body fluids. Hepatitis B can be spread during unsafe sex, when using unsterilized needles, or from mother to baby during birth. Hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with infected blood. In both forms of hepatitis, the infected patient will experience a swelling of the liver and will be at extreme risk of developing other liver problems. Those contracting hepatitis have a greater chance of having liver damage or developing liver cancer in the future.
One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis and to encourage that infected patients seek treatment for the disease is through education. World Hepatitis Day works to educate the public by encouraging that people practice safe sex, are vaccinated against the disease, and avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, or equipment for injecting drugs with one another. It also encourages healthcare providers to ensure that their equipment is adequately sterilized between patients to eliminate the virus from their tools.
Symptoms of hepatitis are very similar to symptoms of the flu. Those experiencing flu-like symptoms are encouraged to seek care from a medical professional for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
World Hepatitis Day events will be taking place all over the world on July 28th. The World Health Organization is hoping that the day will help raise hepatitis awareness and lead to increased availability of resources to help prevent the spread of the disease.
– Jordan Kline