Hepatitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the liver from viral infection or toxic substances. Hepatitis is a global killer, which claims the lives of 1.4 million per year, more than HIV/AIDs or malaria.
- Viral hepatitis affects 400 million people globally. Every year 6–10 million people are newly infected.
- An estimated 95% of people with hepatitis do not know there are infected.
- Over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 3–6 months.
- In 2013, an estimated 1.45 million people died of the disease – up from less than 500,000 in 1990.
- More than 680,000 people die annually due to complications of hepatitis B.
- Approximately 700,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.
Hepatitis infection affects 400 million people worldwide – more than 10 times the number of people affected by HIV. Yet at present, just one in 20 people with hepatitis know they are infected, and only one in 100 with the disease is being treated.
Hepatitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the liver as a result of viral infection or exposure to harmful or toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol. While some types of hepatitis will pass without causing permanent damage to the liver, chronic cases can cause cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer.
With better understanding of prevention, thousands of lives could be saved every year. There is a vaccine and treatment for hepatitis B, and although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, antiviral medication has made is possible to cure 90% of patients within two to three months.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses:
There are five unique hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis C is the most common.
Hepatitis A (HAV) is most commonly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. While the majority of infections in cases are mild and the patient is able to make a full recovery, some can be life-threatening in areas with poor sanitation. It can also be spread through sex or via injecting drugs.
Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infected blood, semen and other body fluids. In some rare cases, it can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants during birth. Hepatitis B can also be spread through contaminated blood transfusions and medical procedures and by injection drug use.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is most commonly transmitted through exposure to infected blood by injection drug use. Transmission by unprotected sex is also possible, although less common. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, although research into development is ongoing.
Hepatitis D (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis D can increase the risk of developing cirrhosis, scarring of the liver caused by continuous, long-term liver damage.
Hepatitis E is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food and it is common in developing countries. It is largely spread by drinking water contaminated with the faeces of someone infected with hepatitis E. It is mostly prevalent in east and south Asia. Although the infection normally clears within 2 to 6 weeks, it can occasionally lead to acute liver failure.
However, viral hepatitis is also unique. Unlike many other illnesses, the solution exists. With a highly effective preventative vaccine and treatment available for hepatitis B and with a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of these cancer-causing diseases can be achieved within our lifetime.