Today is World Hepatitis Day 2012
On July 28 of every year since 2008, World Hepatitis Day, started by the World Hepatitis Alliance, is observed to raise awareness of hepatitis B and hepatitis C globally and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
In May 2010, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution on viral hepatitis which, together with vital
commitments on prevention, treatment and patient care, made World Hepatitis Day an official WHO awareness day.
This years theme is “It’s closer than you think”.
According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, World Hepatitis Day is one of only four official world disease awareness days endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its 194 member states.
Approximately 500 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This represents 1 in 12
people, yet awareness remains inexplicably low. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications, including liver cancer or liver failure. Together, hepatitis B and C kill approximately one million people every year.
According to Dr Sylvie Briand of WHO’s Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department, “The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated. Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, can we take the first step towards full control of the disease and save thousands of lives.”
The WHO describes the different types of hepatitis:
There are five hepatitis viruses defined by types – type A, B, C, D and E. Types B and C are of significant concern since a high proportion of people infected with these viruses may not experience symptoms at the early stage of the disease, and only become aware of their infection when they are chronically ill. This can sometimes be decades after infection. In addition, these two viruses are the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer,accounting for almost 80% of all liver cancer cases.
People can get hepatitis from either infected bodily fluids or contaminated food and water depending on the type of hepatitis.
- Types B, C and D are contracted through the blood of an infected person (e.g. through unsafe injections or unscreened blood transfusions) and in the case of hepatitis B and C, also through unprotected sex.
- Type D only infects persons who are already infected with type B.
- Types A and E are typically transmitted via contaminated water or food and closely associated with poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene (e.g. unwashed hands).
Effective vaccines are available for all the virus types, except C.
Are you at risk for viral hepatitis?
Find out if you should be tested or vaccinated for viral hepatitis by taking CDC’s 5 minute online Hepatitis Risk Assessment.
To learn more about hepatitis and World Hepatitis Day, visit the following websites:
- CDC Viral Hepatitis Homepage
- Hepatitis Risk Assessment
World Health Organization (WHO) – World Hepatitis Day
- World Hepatitis Alliance – World Hepatitis Day
- WHO. Viral hepatitis: report by the Secretariat, March 2010. [PDF - 45KB]
- Follow DVH’s Twitter account @CDChep for information about World Hepatitis Day.
- Get viral hepatitis email updates from CDC through GovDelivery