World Hepatitis Day is the annual observance to promote prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis on an international scale. This year’s theme ‘This is Hepatitis. Know It. Confront It.’ encourages communities across the world to unite and focus their attention on this frequently overlooked global threat.
Hepatitis means inflammation or swelling of the liver and is caused by viruses or toxins, including one or more of the five hepatitis viruses. Chronic viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis B and hepatitis C, can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and liver failure. Although 1 in 12 persons or 500 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or C, many people are unaware of the magnitude of this problem. This issue is not absent in Boston. From 2004-2012, there were 8,640 reported cases of hepatitis C in Boston residents!
Hepatitis is commonly referred to as a silent epidemic because most of those infected remain free of symptoms for decades – until they develop chronic liver disease. Because of this, it is important to take proper preventive measures. World Hepatitis Day is the perfect reason to think about whether you are at risk, should get tested and ways to avoid becoming infected.
You can prevent infection by:
- Receiving the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines
- Washing your hands frequently
- Using protection, either a condom or barrier, when you have sex
- Wearing gloves when handling blood or bodily fluids
- Not sharing a razor, toothbrush or anything else that could have blood on it
- If you are pregnant, getting tested for hepatitis
- Not sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia
- Covering any cuts and open sores you may have
For more information about hepatitis, visit our website or talk to your primary care physician. If you don’t have a doctor, call the Mayor’s Health Line at (617) 534-5050.