What is World Hepatitis Day?
World Hepatitis Day is a public health holiday that brings awareness to this potentially life-threatening virus. The World Health Organization defines hepatitis as, “a group of diseases caused by inflammation of the liver.” This virus currently affects over 2.3 billion people worldwide. Sadly, these statistics mean that every 30 seconds a person dies from hepatitis-related illnesses.
Each year there is a specific theme for the holiday. This year, on July 28th, the theme is all about the “can’t wait” phrase. In other words, this describes that people suffering from hepatitis “can’t wait” for testing. They “can’t wait” for life-saving treatments and screening.
World Hepatitis Day was originally celebrated on May 19th, however, was changed to July 28th to commemorate the birthday of Doctor Baruch Blumberg. Dr. Blumberg was an American physician who discovered the first hepatitis B vaccine. He later received a Nobel Prize for his work on the virus and vaccine.
Big organizations, including WHO and the CDC, are working around the world to raise awareness through World Hepatitis Day. Like we said above, almost 300 million people are living with this virus and are unaware. Millions will continue to suffer without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care.
A Brief Look Into The 5 Types
There are five different types of hepatitis virus, these are A, B, C, D, and E. Each of these viruses is the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer. Unfortunately, it can also cause massive outbreaks that lead to so many lives taken. Ingesting contaminated food and water are the main causes of hepatitis A and E. These types are normally acute or short-term diseases.
Unlike A and E, the other three types are more likely to become chronic and long-term, as well as transmitted through the exchange of infected bodily fluids. Below is a quick look at each of the five types of hepatitis virus.
1. Hepatitis A
Firstly, type A is most commonly transmitted through ingesting the virus, even in a microscopic amount. Some of the symptoms experienced include fatigue, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. This is a short-term virus, and normally goes away within a few months, but there are vaccinations to help prevent type A.
2. Hepatitis B
This type is contracted through infectious bodily fluids and more long-term. The symptoms are very similar to type A, although some people who transmit type B may not experience any symptoms at all. Some only experience hepatitis B short-term, but it can become long-term. Although, if it does become long-term, this can lead to more severe issues like liver cancer.
3. Hepatitis C
Type C is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. The most common way to spread this type is through the sharing of needles or other tools for drug use. Symptoms are the same, but once they begin, this is an indicator of advanced liver disease. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C.
It is important to get tested for hepatitis C because if caught early, treatment can cure most people within 8 to 12 weeks.
4. Hepatitis D
Like the previous two, this type is also transmitted through bodily fluids. The difference is that you can not contract hepatitis D without already having type B. The symptoms and time frame are the same as type B and C, but sadly there is no vaccine. Although there is no vaccine, receiving the hepatitis B vaccine may help prevent contracting type D.
5. Hepatitis E
Lastly, Like type A, this type of virus is most commonly found in areas with poor sanitation. It can be contracted from ingesting fecal matter that contaminates the water supply. People have contracted type E from consuming raw or uncooked meat as well. This type of virus is not as common in the US and there is no vaccine. However, most people make a full recovery in a short amount of time.
How to Do Your Part
Hepatitis is not a virus that only affects one demographic, it is a global epidemic that we all need to educate ourselves on. Getting tested is important to make yourself aware if you are carrying the virus. Millions of people are living with this potentially deadly virus without knowing they even have it.
Furthermore, joining events to bring awareness is always a big step to educate people. Concerts and rallies are a great way to bring awareness to causes like viruses and epidemics. If you are feeling creative, put together your own event. Host a fundraiser and raise funds to donate to the cause. It can be a run or walk, a happy hour event, or a dinner. Get creative and join the fight to reach the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.