World Hepatitis Day
July 28th, throughout the World is celebrated as World Hepatitis Day. This day is commemorated as the day to raise and enhance global awareness and spread information about Hepatitis and its various side effects, the dangers it can cause, symptoms, causes, preventions and methods to cure and treat it completely. On an average, Hepatitis kills almost 1.5 million people a year. It’s important for each and every individual to be informed of the danger that this can lead to. In the earlier times, there wasn’t any serious cure for it. The only thing that everyone knew about HIV was that it’s spreaded when needles are shared. While that is partially true, there are more ways by which HIV and other viruses of Hepatitis can be transmitted.
While we, as individuals might not consider our liver as that useful an organ, the fact is that- it is. It is responsible for processing all our food, breaking down our fats, carbohydrates etc. Hepatitis has a direct affect on our livers and it occurs when the liver gets inflamed. There are 5 different types of Hepatitis infections which are classified on the basis of the virus they are affected by. The different types are Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E. These viruses have had their origins at different times over the centuries.
Hepatitis A is when the liver becomes swollen and irritated due to the Hepatitis A virus. This virus gets transmitted via the stools or blood of any individual who was infected by it. Which means that if a non – infected individual comes in contact with the exposed blood of the person who is infected, either directly or indirectly (eating / touching contaminated food, water/ substances they’ve touched without washing hands) his/her chances of getting the same virus increase. Hences its mostly prevalent in those regions which have poor sanitation. The symptoms of HAV are seen 15 – 45 days after being contaminated / infected with the virus. Dark urine, nausea, low-grade fever, loss of appetite etc can be a few symptoms of this virus. Multiple times, the virus does not have any prominent symptoms and hence the number of registered cases or diagnosed cases are fewer than the actual number of cases which are reported; because people don’t get to know that they have the virus until they finally do because of lack of any symptoms. Luckily, HAV has a vaccine. It is usually administered at the young age of one. This virus can also be detected by blood tests. For treatment, rest is highly recommended and fatty food is avoided. This is because fatty foods need to be processed by the liver and during HAV, the liver is weak and hence won’t be able to process the fatty food.
Hepatitis B is similar to Hepatitis A. It’s spread when any body fluid / blood of an infected person enters a non – infected persons body. This can be done by using the same needle on different people or not maintaining hygiene and sanitation. Sharing appliances / instruments usually causes this. Hence in all forms of Hepatitis, one key thing to be taken care of is that proper sanitation should be maintained and proper hygiene should be done. HBV has a vaccine too. Similar to HAV, not everyone has distinct symptoms, those who do, would have stomach ache, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, etc. HBV is more common in healthcare workers simply because many times they undergo accidental needle jabs which may or may not lead to transmission of HBV infected blood. If you get HBV, there isn’t any specific cure for it. It naturally goes away when the body fights back. Medicines and good care assist unless the case is a chronic one with liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Hepatitis C is very similar to HBV and is transmitted by exposure to infected blood. The major difference between HBV and HCV is that HCV can only be transmitted by blood and not body fluid. HBV can be transmitted via body fluids. Additionally, hepatitis C doesn’t have any vaccine whereas Hepatitis B has one.
Hepatitis D is a virus which can only happen if a person has Hepatitis B. Its the most severe form of the virus and can lead to chronic diseases in the future. It can also cause liver cancer or other such liver diseases.It can only happen to those individuals who have come in contact with an infected persons blood/ body fluid. Symptoms for Hepatitis D include yellow eyes or symptoms for Jaundice, stomach pain, loss in appetite, nausea, dark urine etc.
Hepatitis E is caused by the Hepatitis E virus which is mainly spread by contaminated water. Water which has come in contact with infected substances or faecal matter to be precise. Symptoms could include an initial low grade fever, symptoms of jaundice, loss of appetite, abdominal pain etc.
Treatment for hepatitis isn’t that elaborate. Most of the work is left for the body to do on its own. It naturally recovers and flushes out the virus. There are antiviral medications which are the most suitable and can be administered in relatively severe cases. In life threatening situations, the patient must be hospitalised. Luckily, Hepatitis isn’t that dangerous as it used to be and hence people have become more normalised to it. According to a study done by J I Weissberg and more, the survival rate was 97% for patients with chronic persistent hepatitis, 86% for those with chronic active hepatitis, and 55% for those with chronic active hepatitis with cirrhosis. This proves that the cases aren’t that threatening anymore. However, that being said, Hepatitis is still a prominent disease and we must take care to protect ourselves from it.
Hepatitis can definitely be prevented. To do so it’s imperative that sanitation, cleanliness and hygiene are maintained. Hands should be washed frequently and contaminated substances should be avoided. Getting vaccinated against the disease is also important.
This date July 28 is specifically chosen as the World Hepatitis day not for any random reason but because it was the birthday of the Nobel prize winning scientist Dr Baruch Blumberg. He is revered and recognised globally as the scientist who discovered the hepatitis B virus. He even contributed towards the vaccine for it.
Hepatitis isn’t as scary as it used to be years ago. New advancements and knowledge have made us more aware and equipped against this disease. It’s up to us to use the research that scientists have spent years on, and protect ourselves and our near and dear ones.
Spread awareness against Hepatitis, help save lives.
Happy World Hepatitis Day!
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