Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 500 million people are currently living with viral hepatitis, which causes an estimated 1.5 million deaths from liver infections each year. In honor of World Hepatitis Day (observed on July 28th each year), we’re sharing five fast facts about viral hepatitis.
1) There are Five Strains of Viral Hepatitis.
There are five strains of viral hepatitis, known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. But, Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common of the five. In the U.S., an estimated 3.5 million people are living with Hepatitis C, and 850,000 people are living with Hepatitis B. And each year, more than 1,500 people in the U.S. contract Hepatitis A.
2) Some Strains of Hepatitis Can Cause Chronic Liver Disease.
If Hepatitis B and C aren’t properly diagnosed and treated, or if patients don’t respond to the treatment, these infections can cause chronic liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. Hepatitis C is the most common culprit, accounting for up to 70% of chronic liver disease diagnoses.
3) There are Vaccines for Hepatitis A and B.
The good news is that there are effective vaccines for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a three-vaccine series routinely given to children during their recommended pediatric vaccine schedule. Hepatitis A is a two-vaccine series given to people at risk for contracting Hepatitis A, including people traveling to under-resourced countries, men who are having same-sex intercourse, I.V. drug users, and patients with chronic liver disease.
4) Viral Hepatitis Can Often Be Prevented.
Hepatitis A is spread through fecal-oral transmission. Hepatitis B and C are spread through blood and semen, as well as infected needles and other drug paraphernalia. Hepatitis B and C can also be transmitted to a fetus if the mother is infected.
While Hepatitis A and B vaccines help to prevent these infections, there are other preventative steps patients can take. Hepatitis A can be prevented by frequently washing your hands and making sure your food has been properly prepared. Hepatitis B and C can be prevented by practicing safe sex, avoiding I.V. drug use, and ensuring you and your sexual partner(s) have screening tests for sexually transmitted infections at the recommended intervals.
5) Hepatitis is Treatable and Often Curable.
Hepatitis A can cause severe symptoms, including fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice, but it is considered curable, and will never turn into chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B and C often cause more subtle symptoms and can turn into chronic infections if they’re undetected or untreated for more than six months. But even still, new medical advances are being made, and there are several effective antiviral medications that can help cure Hepatitis B and C infections.
We're Here to Help.
At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re here seven days a week to help you stay as healthy as possible. We offer on-site blood draws for many different lab tests, including Hepatitis A, B, and C.