World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on 28th July each year. This year, the theme is ‘Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis’.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids. Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
Acute infection may occur with limited or no symptoms, or may include symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening. Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood. Transmission may also occur through transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. HBV also poses a risk to healthcare workers who sustain accidental needle stick injuries while caring for infected-HBV patients. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This may happen through transfusions of HCV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common. There is no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome. Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.
Viral hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people worldwide causing 1.4 million deaths a year.
It is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis, and 9 times more people are infected with hepatitis than HIV.
Hepatitis is preventable, treatable, and in the case of hepatitis C, curable. However, over 80% of people living with hepatitis are lacking prevention, testing and treatment services.
Know. Prevent. Test. Treat. 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.
Top 10 messages for Policymakers:
1. Viral hepatitis B and C is a leading infectious killer, yet the majority of global leaders and the public remain unaware.
2. Despite this situation, much can be done: hepatitis can be prevented, diagnosed, treated and managed well.
3. However, most of the people living with hepatitis – over 80% – lack access to testing or treatment.
4. At the same time, people are becoming newly infected due to a lack of prevention services.
5. Achieving hepatitis elimination by 2030 will require a major increase in funding for hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services as part of achieving universal health coverage (UHC).
6. Countries need to ensure that national hepatitis testing and treatment plans include dedicated funding and investments.
7. Countries should seek most optimal prices for medicines and diagnostics.
8. Investing in hepatitis is a smart decision for broader health outcomes.
9. Investing in hepatitis testing and treatment means preventing liver cancer.
10. On World Hepatitis Day 2019, join the cause to help 325 million people.
Link to the WHO World Hepatitis Day 2019 website:
Link to WHO Question and Answer page ‘What is Hepatitis?’: