World Hepatitis Day is an annual global event observed on July 28th to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and promote actions to combat the disease. This day presents an opportunity to bring attention to the significant impact of hepatitis on a global scale and to mobilize efforts towards its prevention, testing, and treatment.
The choice of July 28th for World Hepatitis Day is in memory of the birthday of Dr Baruch Blumberg, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who discovered the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developed the first hepatitis B vaccine.
What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a medical condition uniquely distinguished by the inflammation of the liver. The liver processes nutrients, filters toxins, and produces essential proteins for the body, making it crucial. When the liver becomes inflamed, it may not function properly, leading to various symptoms and potential complications.
There are several different types of hepatitis, with the most common being viral hepatitis. The five dominant types of viral hepatitis include:
Hepatitis A (HAV): It is usually transmitted through contaminated food or water and is considered a short-term (acute) infection. However, it does not result in chronic liver disease.
Hepatitis B (HBV): HBV is transmitted through contact with infected blood and body fluids or from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. It may give rise to both acute and chronic hepatitis and may lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer if left untreated.
Hepatitis C (HCV): HCV is primarily transmitted through exposure to infected blood. Like hepatitis B, it can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis; chronic HCV infection can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis D (HDV): HDV is a rare type of hepatitis that only occurs in people already infected with hepatitis B and can be transmitted through contact with infected blood - causing severe liver damage.
Hepatitis E (HEV): HEV is mainly transmitted through contaminated water. It is similar to hepatitis A in that it typically causes an acute infection, not leading to chronic liver disease, except in people with weakened immune systems.
Apart from viral hepatitis, there are non-viral forms of hepatitis, such as alcoholic hepatitis (caused by excessive alcohol consumption), autoimmune hepatitis (when the body's immune system attacks the liver), and drug-induced hepatitis (caused by certain medications or toxins).
The symptoms of hepatitis can vary, but common signs include fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dark-coloured urine. Acute hepatitis may resolve independently, while chronic hepatitis may require ongoing medical management.
Healthcare professionals should encourage patients to seek medical attention if they suspect patients have hepatitis - early diagnosis and proper treatment can help prevent complications and liver damage. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, offering protection against these viral infections. Hepatitis C can also be treated with antiviral medications in many cases.