World Hepatitis Day   

World Hepatitis Day

Hepatitis Overview

Viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, are distinct diseases that affect the liver and have different hepatitis symptoms and treatments. Other causes of hepatitis include recreational drugs and prescription medications. Hepatitis type is determined by laboratory tests.

Every one of the hepatitis viruses can cause acute (short-term) infection. In addition to short-term infection, the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause the long-term infection of chronic hepatitis. It can lead to life-threatening complications such as liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and liver failure.

Hepatitis: prevention, diagnosis and treatment

Hepatitis is a viral infection that attacks the liver. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Type B can cause both acute and chronic disease. Routine immunization of newborn babies and children with hepatitis B vaccine is the best measure to take. Most countries in the European Region have introduced such immunization, which will ultimately lead to generations free of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood, and people typically become infected due to unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment in some health-care settings, and unscreened blood and blood products.

WHO/Europe’s efforts for the prevention and treatment of hepatitis focus on types B and C. These are the most prevalent types in the WHO European Region, where 13.3 million people are estimated to live with hepatitis B, and 15 million with hepatitis C. Of those infected, over 120 000 die every year. Two thirds of the people in the Region with hepatitis B and C live in eastern Europe and central Asia.

No vaccine is available against hepatitis C, so the disease must be tackled by improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Understanding the disease and following safe injecting practices are the best means of prevention. A new and effective treatment against hepatitis C is now available, to which all people in need should have access.

One thing people can do for liver health is reduce the amount of stress in their live by eating healthy, exercising regularly and reducing the intake of alcohol and recreational drugs.

Understanding Hepatitis -- Symptoms

Many people with hepatitis go undiagnosed, because the disease is mistaken for the flu or because there are no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms of hepatitis are:
•Loss of appetite
•Mild fever
•Muscle or joint aches
•Nausea and vomiting
•Abdominal pain

Less common symptoms include:

Dark urine
Light-colored stools
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
Generalized itching
Altered mental state, stupor, or coma
Internal bleeding

See Your Doctor About Hepatitis If:
Your flu-like symptoms persist or you notice any of the symptoms or signs of hepatitis; chronic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.
A friend or family member comes down with hepatitis; you may be at risk for infection with the organism that causes the disease.
Your symptoms follow a visit to a country where hepatitis is common; you may have contracted the disease during your travels.

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