July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, which aims to increase awareness about viral hepatitis on a global level. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 400 million people worldwide have chronic viral hepatitis. A approximately 1 million individuals die each year from viral hepatitis-related causes.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread by ingestion of contaminated food or water or by direct contact with an infected individual. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) can cause mild to severe illness with symptoms ranging from nausea and fever to jaundice. HAV cannot become chronic. Once a person is infected, he or she cannot become infected again. There is a vaccine available for HAV, which is recommended for all children at age 1 and any adults at risk of infection.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and can be both acute and chronic. HBV is spread though contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected individual. HBV infection may be symptomatic, but infected individuals may also go years before symptoms or complications occur. If left undiagnosed and untreated, HBV may result in serious liver disease, cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or death in 25 percent of people. There is an effective vaccine available for HBV prevention, which is recommended for all babies at birth and adults at risk of infection.
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can be both acute and chronic. HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact with an infected individual. It is estimated that only 20 percent of people with acute cases experience symptoms of HCV. It’s possible that patients may live with HCV infection for years without experiencing symptoms until serious liver damage occurs. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States. The U.S. CDC estimates that there are 3.2 million people living with chronic hepatitis C nationwide, and most individuals are unaware of their infection.
Symptoms of hepatitis C include fever, fatigue and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, darkened urine, clay-colored stools, joint paint and jaundice. People who have ever injected drugs, shared needles and equipment or who were born to a hepatitis C-positive mother join Baby Boomers in the highest risk category.
Recent advancement in therapies for treatment of hepatitis C can cure up to 95 percent of infections. Maine CDC recommends that people talk to their health care provider about their risk for hepatitis C testing. There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
For more information about viral hepatitis resources in Maine, visit: www.mainepublichealth.gov/hepatitis
For more information about hepatitis, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis
Are you at risk for viral hepatitis? Find out if you should get tested: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/index.htm