Wednesday, May 19, 2010

World Hepatitis Day 2010: Are You Number 12? (#worldhepday)

Today is World Hepatitis Day 2010 and it's time to get real about your risk of having viral hepatitis B and C. Worldwide, 1 in 12 people live with viral hepatitis. In the United States alone, an estimated 5.3 million American live with chronic viral hepatitis, yet many have no idea they are infected.

Why do you need to know if you have viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis B and C are devious infections, most often causing minimal or no symptoms in those infected while quietly damaging their livers. Most people who are unaware of the status don't find out they are infected until the virus has done decades of damage and their condition is very serious, i.e. cirrhosis, liver cancer. But if you know you have viral hepatitis, there are medical treatments that can help, routine tests that can monitor for liver damage and day-to-day things you can do to stay healthy.

How can I assess my risk for viral hepatitis?

You might be at risk for
viral hepatitis B (HBV) if:
  • You were born to a mother with HBV
  • You have sex with partners who have hepatitis HBV
  • You are a man who has sex with other men
  • You are a current or former injection drug user
  • You live in a household with someone who has chronic HBV infection and have contact with their blood or share items such as razors or toothbrushes
  • You are a healthcare or public safety worker at risk for occupational exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
  • You are a hemodialysis patients
  • You travel to countries with intermediate or high prevalence of HBV infection
You might be at risk for viral hepatitis C (HCV) if:
  • You are a current or former injection drug users
  • You received a blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, before better screening of donors for Hepatitis C became available
  • You are a hemodialysis patient
  • You are a healthcare worker, military personnel or emergency first responder who has an occupational risk of needle stick injuries
  • You are a person living with HIV infection
  • You were a child born to a HCV-positive mother
In addition, hepatitis C is infrequently transmitted through:
  • Having sex with an HCV-infected partner
  • Sharing personal items contaminated with HCV positive blood, like razors or toothbrushes
  • Procedures like tattoos, piercing, medical and dental surgeries or injections, where standard precaution are not followed, implements are not properly sterilized and/or needles are reused
In addition, if your health care provider ever tells you that your liver enzyme tests are abnormal, request that they test you for viral hepatitis.

If you think you have risk factors for HBV or HCV, please talk to your health care provider or visit your local public health clinic and ask to be tested for viral hepatitis.

How can I prevent becoming infected with viral hepatitis?
  • Ask your doctor about the Hepatitis B vaccination, especially if you did not receive it as part of your childhood vaccinations (most adults today did not)
  • In households with member who have viral hepatitis, take precautions to avoid contact with blood by using gloves, using a diluted bleach solution to clean up spills and do not share personal items that might come in contact with blood, like razors and toothbrushes
  • Adopt safer sex practices, like using condoms
  • If you are an injection drug user, avoid sharing injection paraphernalia with others, learn to clean your works and/or participate in needle exchange programs
  • Ask your medical and dental providers to explain the standard precautions they use in their office to prevent the spread of infections, like sterilizing equipment, wearing gloves and disposing of used needles
What else should I know about viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, hand holding, coughing, or sneezing.

Learn more:

Visit the Centers for Disease Control web pages Hepatitis B Information for the Public and Hepatitis C Information for the Public for more comprehensive information about viral hepatitis.

Another great resource is the World Hepatitis Alliance's website at aminumber 12.org.

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