It feels like everything in the world has its own “day” now – from international chocolate day to giving people hugs. However, when it comes to health, various ailments absolutely should have their own dedicated 24 hours to spread awareness for the other 364 days.
World Hepatitis Day takes places every year on 28 July bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2022 the theme is ‘I Can’t Wait’.worldhepatitisday.org
So for this article, we will contribute in our own little way by sharing what the disease is, how people contract it, and how to reduce the risk of infection.
WHAT IS HEPATITIS?
In general terms, hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. And while most people’s minds go to the viral version (autoimmune hepatitis), there are other things that can cause it. This is usually because of something larger like medications, drugs, toxins, or alcohol.
There are five main classifications. This is because each one has its own virus that causes it.
- A – short-term, acute, and from an infection
- B – Also known as HBV, can be acute or chronic, transmitted through blood or bodily fluids
- C – Also called HCV, only contracted through blood
- D – A rare version that can only appear if someone has Hepatitis B first
- E – A waterborne disease, often coming from places with poor sanitation
Millions of people in the USA alone have some form of this inflammation. People with it usually feel tired, like they have the flu. But there is also…
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Pale bowel movements
- Unexplained weightless
- Yellow skin (possible jaundice)
If someone goes to the doctor with these symptoms, a doctor will take a detailed history as well to find out what other tests need to be done. These can include blood tests, ultrasounds, or even a liver biopsy, etc.
REDUCING THE RISKS
There are plenty of things people can do to try and lower the chance of getting any version of Hepatitis.
- Vaccinations – There are injections for A, B, and D. These are usually given when someone is very young. When you see babies getting their first shots at 6 – 23 months (depending), Hepatitis prevention is probably one of them.
- Hygiene – Making sure you stay clean can go towards avoiding contraction of the A or E versions. Things like washing your hands after going to the bathroom to get off any stray fecal matter.
- Travel Safely – Since it can appear in water, travelers have to be extra careful. This includes not drinking local water or having ice in your drinks, not eating raw/undercooked shellfish, or not eating raw fruits and vegetables.
- Sedentary Lifestyle – Being inactive and having the body’s immune system compromised can lead to infections.
- Fluid Contraction – Things like not sharing needles or razor blades (or even touching open blood). Even avoiding sharing a toothbrush since bleeding of the gums is common and can linger on the bristles for a time.
- Safer Sex – The B and C versions can come through sexual intercourse. So, wearing a condom or using a dental dam will help.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN?
For this part, we will focus on the chronic B and C versions.
When the liver is inflamed for a long time, other health problems can appear. Things like other chronic liver diseases, cancer, or cirrhosis. If things take a turn for the worse, and the liver stops working as it should, we start to see complications like…
- Fluid buildup
- Memory issues
- High blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Even death
So, looking at what can happen, yes using a condom shouldn’t feel like such a big deal. It’s even more important to stay safe because the symptoms don’t show up immediately. It takes a while, and by then the infections are going strong. And, even if some versions are curable, it’s not worth it to put your body through the pain.
WORLD HEPATITIS DAY – INTERESTING FACTS
- Baby boomers (people born between 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C.
- Regular screenings didn’t become normal until after the 1980s
- Viral hepatitis kills more people than malaria
- More than 325 million people around the world have a version of this infection
- Infections spikes come from a lack of funding or awareness
- HCV is the 8th largest killer in the world
- Alcohol makes it worse since it puts extra strain on the liver
- Expectant mothers should be tested because HBV can pass to the baby
- Older/earlier medications had very uncomfortable side effects
WORLD HEPATITIS DAY
We hope, with all this information, readers can go forward with a better understanding of Hepatitis and how to stay safe. Also, if you want to find ways to help, you can visit world hepatitis day dot org!