World Hepatitis Day is an annual event that brings attention to chronic viral hepatitis worldwide and stands in solidarity with persons who have hepatitis B or C, two forms of life-threatening liver disease  World Hepatitis Day is recognized on  July 28th (in honour of Nobel Laureate Prof. Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus, who celebrates his birthday on that date).

Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver and can be caused by a wide range of things. One of the most common causes of chronic (long-term) hepatitis is viral infection which is why it is often called viral hepatitis. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B & C.    Hepatitis B & C together kill approximately one million people a year. 500 million people around the world are currently infected with chronic hepatitis B or C and one in three people have been exposed to one or both viruses.  . In Canada, an estimated 550,000 people have viral hepatitis, with many unaware of their status.

Some people with viral hepatitis have no signs of the infection. Symptoms, if they do appear, can include:  Jaundice, which is when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow; Low-grade fever; Headache; Muscle aches; Tiredness; Loss of appetite; Nausea; Vomiting; Diarrhea; Dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements; and or Stomach pain.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is  usually spread the fecal-oral route; transmitted person-to-person by ingestion of contaminated food or water or through direct contact with an infectious person.The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted between people through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It is very unlikely it can be contracted through kissing or sharing cutlery. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through direct contact with infected blood. Very rarely it may be passed on through other body fluids. While vaccines exist for both Hepatitis A and B. there currently  is no vaccination against Hepatitis C.  There are new therapies, however, to treat certain types of Hepatitis C which are over 98% effective in eradicating the disease!   Take care of yourself and each other.