World Hepatitis Day | Awareness About The Viral Disease

Published on: 31/07/2020

As the world commemorates World Hepatitis Day, get involved and be enlightened of the facts about hepatitis. Let's be informed and help raise awareness in our locality on how to stop the spread of viral hepatitis.

COMMEMORATING WORLD HEPATITIS DAY

Each year, come July 28, World Hepatitis Day is commemorated in honor of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, Nobel Prize winner for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus. [1] 

The celebration aims to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that may eventually lead to more serious health problems, including liver cancer. With this year’s theme being “Hepatitis-free future”, the World Health Organization (WHO) puts an emphasis on the prevention of hepatitis B among mothers and newborns.


ABOUT HEPATITIS

Aside from liver inflammation commonly caused by a viral infection, there are other possible causes of this disease.

In cases of autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the liver cells, and this can last for many years. Other hepatitis cases can also occur as a secondary result of medication, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. [2] 

Globally, there are an estimated 257 million people infected with hepatitis B, and another 71 million with hepatitis C. In addition, WHO data shows that viral hepatitis causes the death of one million people each year. [3] 

Here in the Philippines, one out of ten Filipinos has chronic hepatitis B, while 6 out of 1,000 of the population are infected with chronic hepatitis C. [4] 


TYPES OF HEPATITIS AND THEIR TRANSMISSION

There are 5 main types of hepatitis viruses, and these are identified as A, B, C, D, and E.


Hepatitis A – an infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This is commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with the said virus.


Hepatitis B – most commonly spread from an infected mother to her baby at birth. It is also widespread among unvaccinated children. This type of hepatitis can also be transmitted through injection, unsterile medical equipment, and sexual contact.


Hepatitis C – the spread of the hepatitis C virus is through contact with blood from an infected person. Similar to Hepatitis B, it can be transmitted through the sharing of equipment used to prepare and inject drugs, and other unsafe medical procedures. In some cases, a newly born child could also get the said virus from his/her infected mother.


Hepatitis D – contamination of this type is through exposure to infected blood. It occurs only in people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus. The good thing is, the hepatitis B vaccine also protects against any future hepatitis D infection. 


Hepatitis E – most of the transmission of the said virus is through drinking contaminated water. It does not usually lead to long-term illness or liver damage, but pregnant women infected with this virus are at a high risk of mortality.


THE RISK FACTORS AND SYMPTOMS


With the infection associated with a lack of safe water, and poor sanitation and hygiene, it pays to make sure that you are protected. Through good personal hygiene and avoiding close physical contact with someone who has the illness, you reduce the likelihood of contracting hepatitis. Make sure that the water and food you intake are from the clean source, use condoms for protection, avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors, and do not use unsterilized needles or medical equipment. [5]


Once contracted, most hepatitis cases show these symptoms, regardless of their type: [6]

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscles aches
  • Joint pains
  • Drowsiness
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Complications are to be expected, especially if infected with chronic hepatitis B or C.

Unfortunately, these could lead to more serious health problems such as chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.


THE TREATMENT

Treatment of hepatitis depends on the virus type, and whether the infection is acute or chronic. Hepatitis A doesn’t usually require treatment, but it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper management of the infection. For acute cases of hepatitis B, specific treatment is not required. On the other hand, chronic hepatitis B is created with antiviral medications.

Hepatitis C (both acute and chronic) could also be treated with antiviral medication.

Both hepatitis D and E have no existing available medication yet. Nonetheless, hepatitis E is oftentimes acute. It typically gets resolved with the proper care and advice from a physician.


CONCLUSION

With proper awareness, it is possible to combat the spread of viral hepatitis. One important key here in the prevention of viral hepatitis is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are now widely available for Hepatitis A and B, while medical experts are still developing vaccines against other virus types.

However, in the absence of a vaccine, personal hygiene, and other precautionary measures can be observed as a way of prevention. If you are feeling the symptoms, it is best to consult your physician for a proper diagnosis.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Samuel_Blumberg
[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
[3] https://www.cdc.gov/features/worldhepatitisday/index.html#:~:text=The%20World%20Health%20Organization%20(WHO,one%20million%20deaths%20each%20year.
[4] https://www.who.int/philippines/news/commentaries/detail/ph-must-act-to-eliminate-hepatitis
[5] https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/understanding-hepatitis-prevention
[6] https://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/hepatitis.aspx#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20virus%20causes%20slowly%20progressing,in%20children%2C%E2%80%9D%20says%20Gulati.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Samuel_Blumberg
[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
[3] https://www.cdc.gov/features/worldhepatitisday/index.html#:~:text=The%20World%20Health%20Organization%20(WHO,one%20million%20deaths%20each%20year.
[4] https://www.who.int/philippines/news/commentaries/detail/ph-must-act-to-eliminate-hepatitis
[5] https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/understanding-hepatitis-prevention
[6] https://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/hepatitis.aspx#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20virus%20causes%20slowly%20progressing,in%20children%2C%E2%80%9D%20says%20Gulati.