World Hepatitis Day 2018
Did you know that Hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of liver cancer worldwide?
Hepatitis is a global health issue as it affects every region. Over 300 million people worldwide are living with Hepatitis B or C viruses and over 280 million of the are unaware that they have hepatitis. Each year more than 1.3 million people die from hepatitis related complications.
About World Hepatitis Day
Every year on the 28th of July, the world hepatitis day is celebrated internationally to create awareness on viral hepatitis and its global impact. This year, the theme for the world hepatitis day; Eliminate Hepatitis, focuses on bringing everyone together to help in the fight against hepatitis.
The campaign “find the missing millions,”seeks to eliminate hepatitis by finding the undiagnosed persons worldwide and linking them to care which will help in the ultimate goal to eliminate hepatitis B and C by 2030.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a condition that causes infection and inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis viruses which are of 5 different types; hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
Hepatitis A and E are acute, short-term infections while B, C and D are long-term infections that cause chronic hepatitis which can lead to liver cancer, liver cirrhosis or liver failure.
The liver is the largest organ in the body located on the right upper side of the abdomen which has the following functions:
- Production of bile which is critical indigestion,
- Filtering toxins from the body,
- Breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins,
- Activating enzymes that are specialized proteins essential to body function,
- Storage of glycogen, minerals and vitamins, among others.
What causes Hepatitis?
Hepatitis can be transmitted through:
- Consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with faeces from a person who is infected with the hepatitis virus
- Unprotected sex with an infected person
- Direct contact with the blood from a person with the hepatitis virus
- Excessive consumption of alcohol and other toxins
- Autoimmune System Response which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the liver causing mild or severe inflammation preventing the liver from proper functioning.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
The reason why over half the number of people with hepatitis worldwide are unaware they have the virus is because in most cases, hepatitis does not exhibit any symptoms until the liver is damaged and unable to function properly.
However, the common symptoms that a person with hepatitis is likely to experience include:
- Dark urine
- Pain in the abdomen
- Mild fever
- Muscle or joint aches
- Pale stool
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
Hepatitis diagnosis, like most conditions, starts with an initial doctor’s consultation which involves discussing with the doctor your symptoms, your medical history and having a physical exam done to check for any visible symptoms of the virus such as jaundice and tenderness or any abnormal swelling.
After the doctor’s consultation, other tests can be carried out. These include:
- Liver function test: This is done by taking a sample of blood and testing for any abnormalities such as high liver enzyme levels which may indicate a problem with the liver.
- Abdominal ultrasound: To take images of the inside of the abdomen which can show:
1. Inflammation of the liver,
2. Fluid in the abdomen,
3. Abnormalities of the gallbladder
4. Tumour in the liver
- Liver biopsy: It involves getting a sample of liver tissue and examining it under a microscope to determine how infection or inflammation has affected the liver and to show any areas that appear normal.
Treatment of Hepatitis
Treatment of hepatitis depends on the type of hepatitis and the seriousness of the symptoms. The different treatment options include:
- Some types of hepatitis such as hepatitis A, E and acute hepatitis B do not require treatment but only need the infected person to know how to cope with the symptoms for example by; resting, and hydrating.
- Using antiviral medications to treat acute hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis B.
- Using medications such as Azothioprine and Mycophenolate to treat autoimmune hepatitis.
Prevention of Gall Bladder and Bile Duct Cancer
You can prevent yourself from getting infected with hepatitis by:
- Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Getting vaccinated against hepatitis B is also effective in preventing hepatitis D because only a person with hepatitis B can get hepatitis D.
- Practising good hygiene through:
1. Avoiding raw or uncooked fish
2. Avoiding raw fruits and vegetables
3. Not sharing drug needles and sharp objects such as razors
4. Avoiding touching of spilled blood
5. Not sharing personal items like toothbrushes
- Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol
- Screening blood before transfusion
- Practising safe sex
To eliminate hepatitis, we all have to take action; individually, at the national level through governments and at the international level through organisations like the World Health Organisation, because hepatitis is a global health issue.
This can be made possible by encouraging screening and testing to find those who have not been diagnosed so that by knowing one’s hepatitis status, it can be easier to prevent further spread. On this year’s world hepatitis day, get yourself tested and if you already know your hepatitis status, spread the word to your loved ones and friends on the importance of getting screened for hepatitis.