Today, 28 July is World Hepatitis Day. The theme was launched in 2008 by the World Hepatitis Alliance and in 2010, the World Health Organization agreed World Hepatitis Day would be recognized annually on 28 July, to commemorate the birthday of Professor Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus.
Over two billion people are infected with the virus globally and more than 240 million have chronic liver infections due to the Hepatitis B Virus. About 170 million people are infected with Hepatitis C Virus and more than 350 000 people die from liver disease related to the infection. As a result, 1 in 12 people worldwide is living with the disease.
World Hepatitis Day is marked to increase the awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes. It provides an opportunity to focus on specific actions such as:
- Strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases
- Increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunisation programmes
- Co-ordinating a global response to hepatitis.
Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
However, many of those infected with hepatitis are unaware that they have been infected and may therefore go undiagnosed and untreated, posing a risk of transmission to their families, co-workers and neighbours. We must further strengthen prevention efforts if we are to stop the spread of this threat to public health.
Hepatitis is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids and can be sexually transmitted. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed to transmit the virus, because it is so infectious.
Infected persons often have no symptoms, making it very hard to treat and contain the disease. Symptoms, if they occur, can include feeling tired, aches, nausea, vomiting, passing darker urine than usual and being jaundiced.
A blood sample will be needed to test for the infection. Specialist treatment is sometimes not needed, but sufferers need to be monitored for serious side ailments associated with the disease.
Have yourself tested at your nearest clinic and make sure you are not responsible for spreading the disease!