May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th is Designated Hepatitis Testing Day
Are you at risk? Take the Hepatitis Risk Assessment.
Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver can be caused by viruses, medication, toxins, excessive alcohol intake but most commonly by viruses named Hepatitis A, B or C.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected and can be spread when someone ingests the virus, usually through eating contaminated food or drink or through close personal contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A is very contagious and people can even spread the virus before they get symptoms. However, hepatitis A is easily prevented with a safe and effective vaccine, which is recommended for all children at one year of age and for adults who may be at risk, including travelers to certain international countries.
Since the hepatitis A vaccine was first recommended in 1996, cases of hepatitis A in the United States have declined dramatically. Unfortunately, adult vaccination rates remain low and in recent years the number of people infected has increased as a result of multiple outbreaks of hepatitis A across the United States. While hepatitis A can affect anyone, certain groups are at greater risk of being infected in these outbreaks. To help stop the outbreaks, CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for people who use drugs (including drugs that are not injected), people experiencing homelessness, men who have sex with men, people with liver disease, and people who are or were recently in jail or prison.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. Some people who become infected, especially young children, can go on to develop a chronic or lifelong infection. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious liver damage, and even liver cancer. Hepatitis B is common in many parts of the world, including Asia, the Pacific Islands and Africa.
Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine. Hepatitis B can be passed from an infected woman to her baby at birth, if her baby does not receive the hepatitis B vaccine. As a result, the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants at birth and adults at risk. Unfortunately, many people were infected before the hepatitis B vaccine was widely available. That’s why CDC recommends pregnant women, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, household and sexual contacts of someone infected, anyone born or whose parents were born in areas where hepatitis B is common, and others with certain medical conditions get tested for hepatitis B. Treatments are available that can delay or reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease which results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It is transmitted through contaminated blood, as when sharing needles or through blood transfusion prior to 1992 (since 1992 all blood and blood products have been screened for Hepatitis C). While more uncommon, hepatitis C can also spread through healthcare exposures, sex with an infected person, birth to an infected mother, and tattoos and body piercings from unlicensed facilities or informal settings.
Acute Hepatitis is a short lived illness which may have no symptoms or cause symptoms such as nausea, jaundice, abdominal pain, fatigue and fever. Unfortunately, about 60-70% of infected individuals will progress to Chronic Hepatitis, some of whom will develop cirrhosis and /or liver cancer. Although Hepatitis C infection may not produce symptoms and decades can pass before symptoms of chronic liver disease may develop, infected individuals are still contagious. It is thought that half of all people infected with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected- the only way to find out, is to get tested. Treatment stops the progress of liver disease and lowers the possibility of transmission.
- Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the US with estimates between 2.7-3.9 million people living with the
- 80% of patients with hepatitis C have no symptom, so testing is the only way to know if you are infected.
- 80% will have chronic Fortunately, treatments are available that can cure Hepatitis C. Once Diagnosed, most people with Hepatitis C can be cured in just 8 to 12 weeks, reducing liver cancer risk by 75%
On a separate note, it is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation; but, a few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place.