By Meron Tesfai

World Hepatitis Day is a call for communities all around the world to join together and focus attention on the threat of hepatitis and promote actions to address it. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Sometimes this inflammation is caused by infections with certain germs, particularly viruses.

The most common viruses that cause hepatitis are called hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.  An estimated 4.4 million Americans and 170 million people worldwide are living with hepatitis caused by these viruses.  There are safe and effective vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C can cause long term infection and permanent liver damage.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Some people who have hepatitis A, B, or C will have no symptoms. Others will have fever, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, yellow color of the eyes and skin, fatigue, dark brown urine, and light colored stools. Blood tests are needed to see if you are infected with one of these germs.

Hepatitis C has been reported in Boston residents!

From 2004 to 2011, in Boston there were:

7,588 reported hepatitis C cases
798 hepatitis C cases in 15-25 year olds
15-25 years olds account for 10.5% of all hepatitis C cases

Hepatitis C can be found in all Boston neighborhoods

8 good ways to avoid infection are:

  1. Wash your hands often.
  2. Get vaccinated!
  3. Wear gloves if handling blood.
  4. Do not share razors, toothbrushes or other items that might have blood on them.
  5. Use a condom or barrier like dam when engaging in sex.
  6. Do not share needles or drug injecting equipment
  7. Cover sores or open wounds on your body.
  8. Use ONLY licensed body piercing or tattoo parlors.

For more information on hepatitis, talk to your doctor. You can also contact the Boston Public Health Commission at 617-534-5611 or visit our website.

Meron Tesfai is a project manager in the Infectious Disease Bureau’s Education and Outreach Office.