Worldwide, 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost.
On World Hepatitis Day, 28th July, the World Health Organization (WHO) call on people from across the world to take action and raise awareness to find the “missing millions”.
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. This mostly results from an infection with the virus, although other potential causes of hepatitis are present.
The common types of hepatitis include-
➢ HEPATITIS A:
This is caused by the hepatitis A virus which causes mild to severe illness and is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person. Hepatitis A has a high recovery rate and fortunately, a safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent it.
➢ HEPATITIS B:
This is caused by the hepatitis B virus which causes both acute and chronic disease and is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery. Transmission can also occur through contact with infected blood or other body fluids. Although it is a life-threatening illness, a safe and effective vaccine is available for its prevention.
Caused by the hepatitis B virus that is passed from person to person through body fluids and blood by
a) sexual contact.
b) sharing of needles.
c) accidental needle sticks.
d) mother to child through childbirth.
a) Abdominal pain.
b) Dark urine.
d) Joint pain.
e) Loss of appetite.
f) Nausea and vomiting.
g) Weakness and fatigue.
h) Yellowing of your skin the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
➢ HEPATITIS C:
This is caused by the hepatitis C virus which can lead to liver cancer (cirrhosis) amid acute and chronic diseases. It is blood-borne and hence, infection occurs due to exposure to small quantities of infected blood. Although no vaccine has been developed, there are antiviral drugs available to cure the infection depending on the absence or presence of cirrhosis.
➢ HEPATITIS D:
This is caused by the hepatitis D virus simultaneously or as a super-infection with the hepatitis B virus which can lead to swelling of the liver, scarring and cancer. It is transmitted from mother to child through birth and delivery as well as exposure to infected blood or other body fluids. Unfortunately, success in the treatment of hepatitis D is low but due to the availability of a hepatitis B vaccine, infection can be prevented.
➢ HEPATITIS E:
This is caused by the hepatitis E virus which causes mild illness and in rare cases, acute liver failure. Transmission is through the faecal-oral route, principally via contaminated water. Although a vaccine is available, it is only available in China probably because hepatitis E infection is prevalent in East and South Asia.
➢ AUTOIMMUNE HEPATITIS:
Here, the immune system of the body attacks the liver cells leading to inflammation and in the long run, cirrhosis and/or liver failure. Treatment consists of steroids causing the immune system to be suppressed while a liver transplant is required in rare cases.
➢ ALCOHOLIC HEPATITIS:
With this, there is inflammation of the liver due to drinking alcohol and is most likely to occur in people who drink heavily over many years. Treatment involves hydration, nutritional care and abstinence from alcoholic drinks. Steroid drugs can help reduce liver inflammation as well.
Viral hepatitis B and C affects 325 million people worldwide which causes 1.4 million deaths a year. It is the second biggest infectious disease killer after tuberculosis, and nine times more people get hepatitis than HIV. In the case of hepatitis C, hepatitis is preventable, treatable, and curable.
Viral hepatitis and its consequences (fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer and death) have been ignored for far too long. The image below depicts how a viral hepatitis progresses a healthy liver into a cancerous liver.
The liver is an important organ of the body and it is responsible for regulating most chemical levels in the blood and it excretes a product called bile. This helps carry waste products from the liver. Each blood that enters the stomach and intestines flows through the liver.
The liver absorbs the blood and breaks down, combines and produces the carbohydrates and even metabolizes drugs into forms that are safer to be utilized by the rest of the body. Any of the common roles include:
• Production of bile that helps to take away and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion.
• Production of certain proteins for blood plasma.
• Regulation of blood clotting.
• Production of immune factors and removal of bacteria from the bloodstream to resist infections.
• Stores excess glucose as glycogen where glycogen can be converted back to glucose for energy.
• Clearance of bilirubin from red blood cells. Accumulation of bilirubin turn the skin and eye into yellow.
The by-products are excreted into the bile or blood when the liver breaks down toxic substances. Bile by-products enter the intestines and exit the body in the form of feces.
As members of the Patho-Suppressors Foundation(PSF), we seek to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and push for final true universal vaccination, including the birth dose, with a vaccine that has been available since 1982.
All governments in the world made a commitment in 2016 to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Progress is stalling with less than 10 years to go.
Now, the Patho-Suppressors Foundation(PSF) is holding our government to account and it is urging them to keep their promise to eliminate viral hepatitis via increasing political and financial commitments for hepatitis response and encouraging people to come forward to access hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services.
ALSO, THE FOUNDATION SEEKS TO ADVICE THE PUBLIC TO KNOW, PREVENT, TEST, TREAT AND ELIMINATE HEPATITIS.
Are you at risk? Get tested! Early testing means early treatment to prevent illness and to save your life.
Are you protected? Hepatitis B and C are preventable. Every injection should be safe. Hepatitis B vaccine provides lifelong protection. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted by sex, therefore protect yourself by using condoms.
Be strong, get treated or cured from hepatitis. If you tested positive, ask whether you need treatment – do not delay.
Living with hepatitis B? Some people will need treatment and can stay healthy with life-long therapy.
Living with hepatitis C? 3-month treatment can cure the infection.
II. Alavian SM, Fallahian F, Bagheri-Lankarani K. The Changing Epidemiology of Viral Hepatitis B in Iran. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2007;16:403–6
Authors: Gideon Owusu and Daniel Nuworgah Mawutor (Editor,PSF)