World Hepatitis Day is observed on 28 July every year to raise awareness among people about deadly viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver claiming millions of lives, across the globe annually. Viral hepatitis is a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E causing both acute and chronic liver disease. This day also lays emphasis on the importance of testing and preventing all five types of the disease. Also Checkout: World Hepatitis Day: Act Now To Eliminate Hepatitis - Infographic

The World Hepatic Alliance had recognized this day in 2008 on May 19, later the date was moved to July 28 in 2010, as the World Health Assembly resolved to commemorate the birthday of great American physician Baruch Samuel Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B virus and won a Nobel Prize for his incredible work on the virus and its vaccine. 

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Hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of mortality, with almost 1.4 million deaths each year. Even when the whole world is in the grim of COVID-19 Pandemic, viral hepatitis still continues to claim thousands of lives each day.

This year’s theme is “Hepatitis –free future”, which aims at preventing Hepatitis B (HBV) among mothers and new-borns. Mother-to-child transmission can be prevented among new-borns by safe and effective use of a vaccine.
world hepatitis day 2020

Who Are At Risk Of Getting Hepatitis?

People are at a higher risk of getting hepatitis in the following scenarios:

  • Sharing needles
  • Unprotected oral or anal sex
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Individual’s working in hospitals
  • Patients on dialysis
  • People who often travel to places where sanitation is poor.

As per the reports published by the World Health Organization, more than 90% of children living in regions where the sanitation standards are poor will have HAV infection by age 10.

Preventive Strategies 

Prevention of hepatitis depends on the types of viruses a person is infected with. There are many ways of preventing hepatitis A, B and C which include:

Hepatitis A

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is vaccination, kids should get vaccinated before 1 year and adults should get their shots if they are about to travel to regions where HAV is endemic. Remember that vaccine works only after 2 to 4 weeks after getting the shot and if you want long-term protection, then it is recommended to get a follow-up shot 6-12 months later. If you have missed getting your hepatitis A vaccine a month before you travel, then you should get a shot of hepatitis A immune globulin before you leave, this may avert the risk of being infected with HAV. 

Proper sanitation, strict personal hygiene and regular hand washing all of which may help prevent transmission of hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus can be inactivated by using a household beach or by heating to 85C for 1 minute. Furthermore, people who travel often to endemic areas should avoid drinking untreated water or eat raw seafood or shellfish. It is also important to eat cooked vegetables and fruits should be washed and peeled. Also Read: Hepatitis A: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. Mother-to-child transmission can be averted by following the strategies recommended by the CDC which include:

Mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B develops at birth when the new-born is exposed to maternal blood and bodily fluids. Developing hepatitis B infection early in life increases the risk of developing chronic infection, hence it is important to reduce mother-to-child transmission. All pregnant women should undergo screening of HBV so that they and their new-borns can be treated effectively. Administering hepatitis B vaccination within 12 hours of birth to neonates born to HBV infected mother’s offers 80-95% effectiveness in preventing transmission.

It is also important for adults who had not been infected with HBV to get shots if they are at risk of getting infected. Apart from vaccines, the most effective way to prevent HBV is to avoid contact with other people’s blood and body fluids which include:

  • Avoid sharing razors or toothbrushes
  • Get tattoos and piercings only from shops that follow adequate safety measures
  • Use a condom when you have sex
  • Hepatitis B immune globulin shots taken within 14 days will prevent HBV if a person had picked up the infection through sexual contact. If the cause of infection is others, then you need to get the shot within 24 hours.

Hepatitis C

There is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C. Most people with HAC do not show any symptoms for years and many people don’t even know that they have been infected. Some of the preventive steps to safeguard yourself from getting HAC include

  • Avoid the use of illicit drugs, do not share needles
  • Know about your partner’s sexual history and get tested, if you suspect that they may be infected
  • Always use a condom when you have sex.