July 28, 2016 is World Hepatitis Day, which the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes because of the widespread existence of viral hepatitis worldwide. In fact, the rate of viral hepatitis is 10 times the rate of people with HIV. About 1.4 million people die each year from hepatitis, and only 5% of people with chronic hepatitis even know they have the disease. Also, less than 1% of people with chronic hepatitis have access to treatment.
These conditions are very important because hepatitis is both preventable and treatable. For example, there are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B, and over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured with treatment. The vision of eliminating hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 can be achieved, if people and countries affected by this disease were better equipped and enabled to “know hepatitis” and “act now”.
Risk for Hepatitis
• Anyone can be at risk of hepatitis, given the size of the global epidemic.
• Hepatitis B and C infections are transmitted through contaminated blood as well as through contaminated needles and syringes in healthcare setting and among people who inject drugs. The viruses can also be transmitted through unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child.
• With better information and knowledge about hepatitis risks, people can prevent themselves from getting infected and passing the infection on to others. To do this, however, people should seek testing and learn if they need treatment.
Importance of Hepatitis Testing
•Increasing access to hepatitis testing is key to hepatitis treatment and care.
• An estimated 95% of people with hepatitis are unaware of their infection, in part due to a lack of awareness and lack of access to testing services in many countries.
WHO will release its first hepatitis testing guidelines in 2016. The guidelines will provide guidance on who should be tested, and will recommend simple testing strategies to help country efforts to scale up hepatitis testing, treatment and care.
• Globally, most people who need treatment have not been treated, largely due to a lack of awareness, and access to hepatitis treatment services.
• Over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured of the virus within 3–6 months.
• Appropriate treatment of hepatitis B and C can prevent the development of the major life-threatening complications of chronic liver disease: especially cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Resources Related to Hepatitis
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!