How to Fight Back Against the Hepatitis Epidemic
July 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm
In September 2015, the U.N. came together to develop an agenda for transforming our world for the better by the year 2030. One of the top goals is to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for everyone. And guess what? Hepatitis made the list – with a target to end the viral hepatitis epidemic by 2030.
The ABC’s of Hepatitis
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Although hepatitis is generally viral, other causes include infection, autoimmune diseases, and toxic substances such as alcohol or certain drugs.
There are five types of viral hepatitis – A, B, C, D, and E. All five are dangerous because they can cause severe illness and death, and they have the potential for outbreak and epidemic.
Although all types cause liver disease, there are significant differences in transmission, prevention, and treatment. Types A and E are usually transmitted by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by infected feces. By contrast, types B, C, and D are transmitted mostly through exposure to infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids.
In particular, types B and C are the greatest concern because they account for 80% of hepatitis cases. These types lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people annually. Together, they are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Around the world, hepatitis causes 1.34 million deaths per year – 3,500 deaths per day. This is even more than HIV/AIDS and malaria. While deaths related to HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis have dropped over the past decade, deaths related to hepatitis continue to increase. Currently there are 325 million people living with viral hepatitis, but less than 1% receive treatment.
Hepatitis isn’t limited to a particular geographical region. Hepatitis A is prevalent in developing countries with poor sanitary conditions and hygiene practices, where 90% of children are infected before the age of 10. But there are low levels of infection even in developed countries with good sanitation and hygiene. Similarly, types B and C are found worldwide.
But hepatitis doesn’t just affect those who are infected – it affects their entire communities. Eliminating viral hepatitis would also improve economic growth and help to achieve social justice.
There is now a global strategy in place to combat the disease. The vision is a world where viral hepatitis transmission stops, and everyone living with hepatitis has access to safe, affordable, and effective treatment and prevention services.
As we learned in Lord of the Rings, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Here are 5 easy ways you can help combat viral hepatitis around the world:
- Get vaccinated. Safe and effective vaccines are widely available for types A and B. As a bonus, the hepatitis B vaccine also protects against hepatitis D. There is also a vaccine for type E, but it is not yet widely available. This is the surest way to guarantee immunity to the disease.
- Take precautions. Always wash your hands carefully after using the restroom or when you come in contact with an infected person’s blood, feces, or bodily fluid. Avoid unclean food and water. And always use safe sex practices, especially with partners of unknown hepatitis status.
- Get tested. The sad truth is that 90% of people with hepatitis don’t know they’re infected. Not knowing means you aren’t receiving treatment and could unknowingly spread the infection.
- Seek treatment. If you’ve been recently exposed to hepatitis or think you may be at high risk of exposure, talk to your doctor. Vaccines issued soon after contact with the virus can prevent infection. Plus, we even have a cure for hepatitis C.
- Join #NOhep, the global campaign initiated by the World Hepatitis Alliance with a single goal: to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. This campaign mobilizes communities and organizations around the world to raise awareness and create change to prevent the spread of hepatitis.
Dear Central Florida: We Can Help
Doing what you can to end viral hepatitis is especially important for Floridians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Florida consistently ranks among the states most affected by hepatitis B and C.
At True Health, we offer on-site lab services to help you get tested at your convenience – and in your price range. We are always accepting patients at all 8 of our locations on a walk-in or appointment basis.
Please reach out to us at (407) 322-8645 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online form. Together, we can make a healthier world.