Millions with Hepatitis B, C remain undiagnosed globally
An estimated 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Even more alarming, globally, 90 percent of people living with hepatitis B and 80 percent living with hepatitis C don’t know they have the disease, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA).
Galveston County Health District (GCHD) is recognizing World Hepatitis Day on July 28. World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to learn more about viral hepatitis and its role as a public health threat.
“Until we find those who are not diagnosed and get them medical care, millions will continue to suffer,” said Eugenia James, GCHD HIV/ STD program manager. “Going unaccounted for and without treatment could lead to developing fatal liver disease or liver cancer at some point, and in some cases, unknowingly passing the infection to others.”
There are five main hepatitis viruses – types A, B, C, D and E. Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters blood and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its functions can be altered. Viral hepatitis is responsible for 1.34 million deaths a year, more than HIV/ AIDs, malaria and Tuberculosis.
“This World Hepatitis Day, we encourage residents of Galveston County, across the state and world to get tested today,” James said. “Do not be one of the missing. Be one of the counted.”
Many people living with hepatitis B don’t have symptoms and don’t even know they are infected. Risk factors include sex with an infected person, injection drug use, outbreaks and birth (passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
All pregnant women, household and sexual contacts of those with hepatitis B, people born in parts of the world with increased rates for hepatitis B, those with certain medical conditions including HIV infection and those receiving chemotherapy and on hemodialysis should be tested, as well as men who have sex with men.
Symptoms for both hepatitis B and C include fever, feeling tired, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, dark urine, grey-colored stool, joint pain and yellowish skin and eyes.
Most people today are infected with hepatitis C by sharing needles, syringes or any other equipment to inject drugs. Before widespread blood supply screening in 1992, hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Poor infection control and sexual transmission are rare, but possible.
Hepatitis C can also be spread when getting tattoos and body piercings at unlicensed facilities, informal settings or with non-sterile instruments.
Those born 1945-1965 or received donated blood or organs before 1992 should be tested, as should those who have ever injected drugs, have certain medical conditions including chronic liver disease, HIV or AIDs. People with abnormal liver tests or liver disease or have been exposed to blood from a person who has Hepatitis C, are on hemodialysis or were born to a mother with hepatitis C should also be tested.
Eliminating hepatitis B and C as public health threats by 2030 would prevent approximately 36 million infections and save 10 million lives. The elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and an understanding of the disease and associated risks are a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.