World Hepatitis Day is public health holiday held annually on July 28th, the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg (1925–2011), who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967, and developed the first hepatitis B vaccine 2 years later.
The purpose of World Hepatitis Day is to raise awareness of the problem of viral hepatitis, which impacts more than 325 million people worldwide.
The theme of this year is “Finding The Missing Millions.” In general, about 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware worldwide. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will end.
On World Hepatitis Day, we call on people from across the world to take action and raise awareness to find the “missing millions.”
What is hepatitis
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
Viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis. Hepatitis A is always an acute, short-term disease, while hepatitis B, C, and D are most likely to become ongoing and chronic. Hepatitis E is usually acute but can be particularly dangerous in pregnant women.
If you have infectious forms of hepatitis that are chronic, like hepatitis B and C, you may not have symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not occur until the damage affects liver function. Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, dark urine, pale stool, etc.
How to prevent hepatitis
Practicing good hygiene is one key way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. If you’re traveling to a developing country, you should avoid local water, ice, and raw fruit and vegetables.
Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by not sharing drug needles or using someone else’s toothbrush. Hepatitis B and C can also be contracted through sexual intercourse and intimate sexual contact. Practicing safe sex by using condoms and dental dams can help decrease the risk of infection.
The use of vaccines is an important key to preventing hepatitis. Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B. Experts are currently developing vaccines against hepatitis C. A vaccination for hepatitis E exists in China, but it isn’t available in the US.
How to get involved
You can get tested on World Hepatitis Day because you may be unaware that you're infected. It’s a simple blood test that you can take at your doctor’s office or at your neighborhood health center. After you're tested, encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Lots of health organizations and affiliates raise awareness about the virus with events on World Hepatitis Day, July 28. Attend concerts, rallies, pop-up testings and more. Search the World Hepatitis Day website to find an event near you.